WrestleMania season is in the air once again as ‘The Show Of Shows’ is just around the corner. To celebrate the annual spectacle, we’ve ranked every WrestleMania main event since the very first one in 1985.
To be clear, the main event is the last match on the show, no other ‘headline’ matches qualify for the list. 36 WrestleManias have taken place so far but there are 38 matches here. Why? WrestleMania 36, held behind closed doors in 2020 was split over two nights so both Saturday and Sunday’s main events have been counted. As for the extra one remaining? Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right off the bat.
38. Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX – WWF Championship – 1993
Yes, this was the last match on the WrestleMania IX show. However, it was in no way the advertised main event. Hulk Hogan would come out to help Bret Hart after Hart’s WWE Title loss to Yokozuna. Yoko’s manager Mr. Fuji would challenge Hogan on the spot to a match. With Bret urging the apparently reluctant Hulkster on, Hogan accepted. Mr. Fuji then attempted to blind Hogan by throwing salt in his eyes, missing and blinding the massive Yokozuna instead. The champ went down allowing Hogan to hit a clothesline followed by his leg drop for the pin. Not even a big boot in sight!
Another reason to discount this as the main event of WrestleMania IX – the bell never rang to start the match. No bell would ring to end the match either. Hulk would leave with the title but no match ever really took place. Can you imagine the reaction if social media had been around in 1993? Best not to. Moving on.
37. Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice – WrestleMania VIII – 1992
The first non-title main event since the first edition of WrestleMania in 1985. The background to this match started at the 1992 Royal Rumble. With the WWF Championship vacated at the time due to shenanigans in matches between Hogan and The Undertaker, the 1992 Rumble match would crown a new champion.
With that match down to the final three competitors – Hogan, Justice, and Ric Flair, Hogan would put the boots to Flair. Hogan’s back was turned to Justice who then legitimately eliminated the Hulkster from the match. So far, so sensible. Hogan would take exception to this, grabbing on to Justice allowing Flair to dump him to the outside and win the match and the title. Justice was rightly peeved and words would be exchanged between him and Hogan while a gaggle of officials tried to keep the two apart.
This led to WrestleMania VIII and Hogan’s seventh Mania main event. In the build-up there was a lot of talk about this possibly being Hogan’s last match from the commentary table as the era of Hulkamania wound down. Thankfully, this wouldn’t mark the end of Hogan’s in-ring career as it would not remotely be a fitting end for the legend.
The match itself showcased very little from Justice and Hogan – but there is no denying the crowd was firmly behind Hulk, even after his Rumble antics. Where this match really fell apart was towards the finish.As is well documented, Justice would kick out of Hogan’s leg drop after Papa Shango missed his cue to break up the pin. And when I say, miss his cue, it wasn’t even close.
After the kick-out, Shango would jog out to the entranceway, stopping halfway to survey the scene. By now, despite Gorilla Monsoon’s later commentary to the contrary, the match was already over. The referee Earl Hebner called for the bell and the disqualification when Justice’s manager Harvey Wippleman entered the ring. Despite Wippleman not putting his hands on Hogan yet. With the match over Shango sauntered to the ring to help Justice continue the attack on Hogan. The inimitable strains of The Ultimate Warrior’s music then filled the arena and the crowd erupted as Warrior sprinted to the ring. The two heroes would clear the ring and embrace in the best possible attempt to wash the bad taste of the end of the match out of everyone’s mouths.
WrestleMania VIII would have been much better served if the main event had seen the Macho Man Randy Savage defeat the villainous Flair for the WWE Championship. A title change, a clean finish, and a hugely feel-good moment. There’s no real reason for a WrestleMania event to have a planned ending of a disqualification, or for that matter, a count-out.
36. The Miz vs. John Cena – WrestleMania XXVII – WWE Championship – 2011
The build for this match would see the host of WrestleMania, a returning Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson heavily involved.Rock’s war of words with Cena in the lead-up marginalised the WWE Champion The Miz in his only WrestleMania main event to date. With that being the case, fans of WWE felt that Cena would once again prove his superiority at ‘The Showcase Of The Immortals’ and walk out with the title. The Rock thought differently.
Before the match The Miz got a great video package highlighting his rise from reality TV also ran to bonafide WWE Superstar – this was possibly the best part of the entire presentation. Cena would make his way to the ring after being serenaded by a gospel choir.
The match itself was nothing spectacular with both stars sticking to what brought them to the dance. However, after the referee went down and interference by Miz’s sidekick Alex Riley the match was building to what appeared to be a decent conclusion. Then the whole thing fell apart. Cena would tackle The Miz into the crowd and both men would lay motionless for the double count-out. In the main event of WrestleMania.
Of course The Rock, as the host would not let this stand. And after telling a laptop – well, the anonymous Raw general manager – that he didn’t care what he thought, Rock would restart the match. This time there would be no disqualification, no count-out, no time limit. The Miz and Cena hit the ring and Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment immediately. Miz would hold onto the ropes to avoid the move and Cena would turn around straight into a Rock Bottom. Thirty-five seconds after the restart The Miz would claim the unlikeliest win of his career.
The crowd was happy Cena had lost but this was a long way to a shortcut of physicality between Cena and The Rock. WWE could have gone the whole hog and had The Rock pull a Hogan at WrestleMania IX and challenged The Miz there and then for the title. That would have certainly sent the masses in Atlanta home happy that night.
35. The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid – WrestleMania 13 – WWF Championship – 1997
Sid’s second and final appearance on the list marks The Undertaker’s first. Thankfully for the legendary Deadman, they only get better from here. Whereas the focus on WrestleMania XXVII was squarely on The Rock, the focus on this match was entirely on guest commentator Shawn Michaels. Michaels and lead announcer Vince McMahon would take every opportunity to run down Bret Hart – an odd move for a match that Hart wasn’t officially part of. However, he could well have been given that he would be involved in the match on three different occasions. First, Hart would enter the ring before the match to run down Michaels, Sid, and The Undertaker cementing his villainous turn from earlier in the night. Sid would lend a sympathetic ear to Hart’s complaints before hitting him with a powerbomb.
The match then began at a fairly sedate pace and would only slow down from there. Until Bret Hart returned to smash Sid in the back twice with a chair. The Undertaker would walk Hart off as The Hitman retreated amongst a mass of officials. As the match was ‘no holds barred’ it would continue despite the obvious interference. The Undertaker could not capitalise on the attack by Hart and the match continued to ebb and flow – although mainly ebb. Sid would set up a powerbomb on The Undertaker, only for Hart to return for a – verging on the ridiculous – third time.
Those waiting for Michaels to rise from his chair at ringside and chase his rival off once and for all would continue to wait as the would-be degenerate could only provide caustic remarks from the announce table. Hart would guillotine Sid over the top rope and the champion would rebound directly into a Tombstone. After an Earl Hebner trademark slow count on the final pinfall, The Undertaker would win his second WWF Championship and crucially remain undefeated at WrestleMania.
Reports from the time and since have suggested that Hart and Michaels were meant to face each other in the main event of WrestleMania 13. In what would be a rematch of their Iron Man match from the year before. A lost smile and title relinquishment from Michaels would ensure that didn’t happen. Even if Michaels’ and Hart’s relationship was at an all-time low, the two top-tier performers would surely have put on a better showing in the main event.
34.Drew McIntyre vs. Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania 36 – WWE Championship – 2020
After nearly a year of wrestling in front of no live fans, there is now a familiarity with it. At WrestleMania 36 however, it was still brand new and incredibly jarring to watch. In years to come, this show will – hopefully- be something of a novelty to reflect on. Remember when they had no fans at WrestleMania? Wild!
Watching this match back on the WWE Network, the first thing of note is that the bell rings to start the match with less than seven minutes of the show remaining. In the main event of WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar does not get paid by the hour.
What would surely have been a lengthier formulaic Brock Lesnar match had there been fans in attendance was whittled down to a bare-bones, formulaic Brock Lesnar match. McIntyre hits the Claymore early on, Brock then takes control with a few German suplexes. And before you know it, we’re into the home stretch.
The most notable moment of the match came when Drew McIntyre kicked out of the first F5 at one. At this point, it’s hard to think of a more devalued finishing move in wrestling than the F5. The finisher count ended at 3 F5s to 4 Claymores and that would be enough to make Drew McIntyre WWE Champion. A wonderful moment for Drew but a WrestleMania main event that took less time than to hard boil an egg.
33.Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania X – WWF Championship – 1994
Hart would go from the sublime to the not so sublime on this night in Madison Square Garden. Opening the proceedings in an all-time great WrestleMania match against his brother Owen, Hart would later reclaim the WWE Title. The match against Owen was a technical masterpiece. A best-selling novel told through the medium of wrestling moves. Owen would claim the shock win after blocking a victory roll attempt from Hart.
But this list isn’t for that, we’re here for the main event and it would not be as momentous an occasion. The WWF Championship picture was all over the place following a tied Royal Rumble that would see Lex Luger and Bret Hart’s feet hit the floor at the exact same time. Not a wrestling ‘exact same time’ but a real exact same time. This being the days before triple threat matches in WWE, there was only one solution – an entirely convoluted process to get to the main event of WrestleMania.
Champion Yokozuna would compete twice in the evening as well. By virtue of a coin toss, Luger gained the first crack at the title. Special referee Mr. Perfect would have a bearing on the outcome of that match. After Luger cracked Yokozuna with his forearm smash, Yoko’s manager Mr. Fuji and his American spokesman Jim Cornette both ended up in the ring to stop Luger’s apparent victory. After Luger attacked both men, Perfect would try and clear the ring of non-participants rather than count the pinfall on the champion.A frustrated Luger then dared to push the referee so Mr. Perfect disqualified him, meaning Yokozuna would retain the title and proceed to the main event.
That main event would see another special referee take charge in the form of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Hart was still exhibiting the effects from his match with Owen, Yokozuna seemingly recovered from being KO’d by Luger. The match was slow, a lot slower than their battle the year before. Piper was distracting as the referee, loudly counting rope breaks and shouting instructions to both men.
The crowd in Madison Square Garden grew audibly louder in their support of Hart as the match wore on. Yokozuna took control and looked to be setting up for the end of the match as he dragged Hart to the corner for the Banzai Drop. Inexplicably Yoko then lost his balance on the ropes and fell to the mat. Thankfully for Hart, he managed to move and escape being crushed by the 500-pound giant. With Yokozuna prone on the mat, Hart would simply crawl over, hook the leg and reclaim the WWF Championship.
The crowd was satisfied with the result, as were the rest of the heroes in the locker room. Superstars such as Randy Savage, Lex Luger, and Razor Ramon would hoist Hart aloft in celebration. More interestingly, Owen Hart watched on from the entranceway, seething that he had once again been overshadowed by his elder brother.
32. Triple H vs. Big Show vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley – WrestleMania 2000 – WWF Championship – 2000
If you want a match that encapsulates the complete madness of the Attitude Era then this might be it. A McMahon in every corner was the selling point of this main event as it grew arms and legs in the run-up to WrestleMania.
The Rock won the 2000 Royal Rumble to earn his place in the main event of WrestleMania, more on that later. Triple H would get there by winning the WWF Championship from Big Show in early January on Raw. In the middle of Raw, not even the main event. That slot would be reserved for The Rock defeating X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn to save his job. There was a lot going in early 2000.
Triple H would come through two hellacious battles for his championship with Mick Foley. First at the Royal Rumble in a street fight. In February the two would battle inside Hell In A Cell, with Foley being forced to retire should he lose. Lose he did and Mick Foley would be forced to hang up his boots for approximately 5 weeks.
Big Show was put into the match after defeating The Rock at No Way Out in February. The 7ft giant had complained after The Rock eliminated him last to win the Royal Rumble. Show was able to find the footage that showed that Rock’s feet touched the ground before his. Making Big Show the rightful winner. With Big Show taking The Rock’s number one contender status away from him, The Great One would have to find another way to make it to WrestleMania. With one last chance, Rock would challenge Big Show to try and make the main event a triple threat match. Big Show’s ally Shane McMahon insisted on being the special referee for the match to try and keep The Rock away from the title.
This plan was undone when a returning Vince McMahon – who had been betrayed by daughter Stephanie and Triple H in December – knocked out Shane and allowed The Rock to pick up the victory. Three competitors, three McMahons, so far, so complicated.
Two weeks before WrestleMania Triple H insisted on defending his title on Raw in the triple threat match. Rather than at WrestleMania with Stephanie, Vince, and Shane all at ringside. Emerging victorious Triple H could celebrate for mere seconds before Linda McMahon would appear to add another spanner in the works. Linda would add the recently retired Mick Foley to the match so Foley could live his dream of main-eventing WrestleMania. And yes, Linda would be in Mick’s corner for the match. Four competitors, four McMahons at ringside, one WWF Championship, it would have been more of a shock if nothing dastardly happened.
Finally, after the weeks of back and forth to get there the four men would main event WrestleMania 2000 in a no-disqualification elimination match. Incredibly, The Big Show wouldn’t even last five minutes as he was eliminated early by The Rock.
A brief ‘Rock ’n’ Sock Connection’ reunion saw Rock and Foley work on Triple H. A strategy that might have worked if it lasted more than two minutes. More shockingly, Foley would then team up briefly with the man that retired him weeks before to try and take out The Rock. Then for the third WWE pay-per-view in a row Triple H would defeat Foley, hitting the Pedigree onto a steel chair to eliminate the Hardcore Legend.
That left two men, arguably the two men that should have been having an epic one-on-one match in the first place. The Rock and Triple H. Stephanie and Vince watching on. The McMahon presence was soon felt as Vince put his hands on son-in-law Triple H. This would prompt Shane to return and attack his father with a television monitor. As blood trickled down the WWE Chairman’s face, he would put the boots to his son before Shane retaliated with a steel chair. As Rock and Triple H traded the upper hand, both men exhausted from the fight. Shane would try and intervene with the chair, prompting Vince to attack Shane in the ring.
HHH and The Rock clambered to their feet as Vince McMahon stood upright with the chair now in his hands. Having accompanied The Rock to the ring to try and wrestle back control of his company from his daughter and his degenerate son-in-law, there were no prizes for guessing who McMahon would strike.
Jim Ross exclaimed his disbelief as Vince McMahon took the chair and rattled The Rock over the head with it. Stephanie looked on shocked as her husband clambered over to The Rock and covered him for the victory. Stephanie embraced her father, who little over three months ago she had turned her back on. Vince and Shane seemed to reach an understanding over them beating the hell out of one another barely minutes before. And The Rock, well The Rock was angry.
As the fans in Anaheim began littering the ring with the three McMahons in it, The Rock would return. Rock Bottom for Shane, Rock Bottom for Vince, and yes, as it’s 2000 Rock Bottom for Stephanie for the loudest reaction of the night.
An elaborate mess of a match with four men who could have delivered a lot more if not for all the nonsense/McMahon’s literally surrounding it.
31. Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow – WrestleMania XI – 1995
For the first time since the inaugural WrestleMania in 1985, a celebrity from outside the wrestling world claimed a place in the WrestleMania main event. Lawrence Taylor is an NFL great, a two-time Super Bowl winner, ten-time Pro Bowler, and voted onto the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1980s. Taylor was also not short of notoriety for his scandalous private life, having failed several drug tests during his career. As Taylor’s life as an NFL player came to an end, the wacky world of wrestling would embrace the larger-than-life LT into its loving arms.
At the 1995 Royal Rumble, Taylor was present in the front row to witness the incredible upset of Bob Holly and the 1-2-3 Kid defeating Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka to win the WWF Tag Team Championships. With Bigelow being pinned in the match, the flame-headed behemoth was livid. Spotting Taylor at ringside and perceiving the NFL legend as laughing at him, Bigelow struck, shoving LT to the ground.
Rather than apologise in the aftermath, Bigelow challenged Taylor to a match at WrestleMania. Taylor accepted and would be seen training with then WWF Champion Diesel. The inclusion of Taylor brought the company much-coveted mainstream attention. As did Pamela Anderson accompanying Diesel to the ring for his title defence against Shawn Michaels.
The match was preceded by the introduction of the two men’s respective factions, in typical NFL style. The Million Dollar Corporation that Bigelow belonged to was introduced one by one. Which gave everyone a chance to see Nikolai Volkoff in 1995 and Ted Dibiase jogging in a bowtie. LT’s All-Pro team would follow with several NFL legends joining Taylor at ringside. For wrestling fans, the most notable member of that team was future Four Horseman Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael.
Pat Patterson served as the referee for the contest as he had for the main event of the first WrestleMania. A creative force to help the celebrity combatants on the right track. The match itself was probably better than it had any right to be. The crowd was involved and cheered loudly for Taylor. WrestleMania being held only a couple of hours from where Taylor had played his entire NFL career. LT had no shortage of athletic ability or charisma as he spent most of the match fighting from underneath. Taylor would show a bit more fight than an experienced wrestler may have when dealing with the blows dished out by Bigelow. Selling, to use the vernacular, was not Taylor’s strength.
Taylor took a page out of Diesel’s playbook, hitting Bigelow with a jackknife powerbomb that he just about got away with as LT also fell to the mat from the impact. As the match reached its climax Taylor would down Bigelow with two shoulder tackles. LT would then gingerly head to the middle rope before crashing down on Bigelow with a huge forearm smash. That was enough for Patterson to count the pin and see Taylor claim victory.
LT then celebrated with his posse and his son in the ring. Bigelow was berated by DiBiase on his way to the back for losing to a football player. As far as celebrity involvement in a match goes, there was nothing wrong with this match. But for a WrestleMania main event? It had no business in that rarefied air.
30. Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy – WrestleMania 2 – WWF Championship – 1986
WrestleMania 2 needs a particular caveat on this list. The event took place in three separate locations with each having its own main event. However, on the broadcast, this match was the last one shown so we are counting it as the main event of the whole show. And let’s face it, it’s Hogan in the eighties – this was the only main event.
This match is not looked back on fondly by many. Without the pomp and circumstance of WrestleMania and absent of the iconic moment of WrestleMania 3, this match is often overlooked. However, it included Hulk Hogan so the crowd was invested. The match saw Bobby Heenan ignite his feud with The Hulkster as he led Bundy into battle. And it was a cage match, at a time when they were a rarity on television so there was intrigue. It was also the first time the WWF Championship was defended in the main event of WrestleMania so the match had stakes befitting of the occasion.
Hogan had his ribs taped for the match after previously being squashed by Bundy. After Hogan initially took control, Bundy would dominate Hogan and work on those injured ribs. King Kong Bundy was looking for a short night at the office as he repeatedly tried to leave the cage to win the match and the title. Going so far as to try wrapping Hogan in the ropes with his bandages. Hogan grabbed Bundy at the last second repeatedly while Heenan screeched for Bundy to get out on the outside of the ring.
Hulk Hogan drove Bundy headfirst into the cage causing the colossal Bundy to bleed. As noted on commentary rather than try and win, Hogan wanted revenge on Bundy for the previous attack. Hogan attempted a big slam on Bundy but would collapse under Bundy’s weight as his injured ribs caused Hulkster problems. Bundy hit the avalanche in the corner and the big splash on Hogan. Before making for the cage door one more time. Heenan even grabbed on to Bundy’s singlet as he tried to pull the 450-pounder out of the ring.
Once again though, Hogan was able to stop Bundy, dragging him back into the match to save his title. Another avalanche from Bundy led to the inevitable ‘Hulk up’ and the crowd comes alive. Hogan hit the big slam on Bundy a year before the biggest slam of all and follows up with a leg drop. Hulk climbs over the top of the big blue cage to the outside to retain his championship.
Following the match, Hogan chases the troublesome Heenan into the ring. Hulk then throws Heenan into the steel cage before hitting the undisputed move of the eighties – the atomic drop, sending The Brain flying out of the cage door.
29. Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase – WrestleMania IV – WWF Championship – 1988
A massive 16 matches were squeezed onto the card for the fourth edition of WrestleMania. The event centred around a fourteen-man tournament to crown a new WWF Champion. The title had been vacated after the mother of all storyline swerves at The Main Event in February.
Then champion Hulk Hogan defended his title in a much-hyped rematch with André The Giant. André pinned Hogan despite the champion’s shoulders clearly being off the mat. After the match, the French behemoth sold the WWF Title to the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. In storyline, DiBiase paid a crooked official to have plastic surgery to look exactly like longtime official Dave Hebner. In reality, Hebner’s twin brother Earl filled that role. With DiBiase’s official in charge of the title match, he could ensure his crony André would win and subsequently sell the championship to DiBiase.
WWF President Jack Tunney thwarted DiBiase’s plans when he vacated the title. Tunney made the tournament for WrestleMania in March with Hogan and André receiving byes into the quarter-finals.
In a notable tournament match, Hogan and André faced each other one more time battling to a double disqualification. That result saw both men eliminated from the tournament guaranteeing a new champion would be crowned. The double disqualification also ensured DiBiase would receive a bye into the final.
As the tournament whittled itself down to two throughout the night, DiBiase was joined in that final by the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage.
DiBiase made his way to the ring accompanied by André. Savage followed with the usual pomp and circumstance accompanied by Miss Elizabeth. Both men received muted responses from the crowd in Atlantic City. Their reactions dwarfed by that of guest timekeeper and Wheel Of Fortune hostess Vanna White.
Within seconds of the match starting André made his presence felt clipping Savage’s foot from ringside. This caused the crowd to come to life chanting for Hulk Hogan to even the odds. After André stepped in front of Savage to stop him jumping to the outside onto DiBiase, Savage whispered into Elizabeth’s ear and she made her way to the locker room. Moments later, Elizabeth re-emerged with Hulk Hogan as the crowd began to show an interest in the match.
Hogan grabbed a steel chair, setting it up at ringside indicating that he was there to sit and observe. Elizabeth was left standing next to him.
Savage and DiBiase were more than capable competitors and the two men went back and forth as the match wore on. With Savage locked in the Million Dollar Dream and André distracting the referee, Hogan inexplicably smashed DiBiase in the back with his chair.
Savage made his way to the top rope and leaped off with his incredible flying elbow for the win. As tears flowed from the resplendent Elizabeth, Hogan celebrated with her and Savage. Savage placed the title over his wife’s shoulder and hoisted her in the air for an emotional celebration. You can almost see the happy couple in some camera angles behind the wildly gesticulating Hogan. WrestleMania IV gave Savage his first world title and was also the night that the Mega Powers first came to be.
28. Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 33 – 2017
I will preface this choice by saying that this match would definitely have placed higher on this list just for what occurred afterward if it had been The Undertaker’s last match. It wasn’t, as it turned out anywhere near his final outing so we are where we are.
Jim Ross took his rightful place at the commentary table for the main event less than two weeks after his beloved wife Jan passed away. The welcome he received from Michael Cole and JBL along with the fact he was even asked to be there speaks to the things that WWE can get right.
Reigns, who was taking part in his third WrestleMania main event in a row still received a chorus of boos from the crowd. This match was the latest attempt to solidify Roman as a bona fide star. There is no better opponent for that at WrestleMania than The Undertaker.
The Undertaker was no longer perfect at WrestleMania by now but still boasted a legendary 23-1 record at the event. Since The Streak ended three years prior to this match, the Deadman had defeated Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon at WrestleMania. Reigns headlined both shows those matches were on, getting the better of Triple H in 2016.
Early on The Undertaker sent Reigns to the outside and told him in no uncertain terms that the ring is still his yard. Then the match just sort of happens, never really getting out of second gear. The two competitors end up at the commentary tables, as is obligatory for a WWE event. Undertaker cleared the tables before Reigns recovers enough to hit an impressive spear to put ‘Taker through the Spanish announce table.
The two men made their way back into the ring where Reigns continued striking. Roman set The Undertaker in the corner and climbed the ropes to punch the Phenom which only means one thing – The Undertaker hoisted Reigns up for a powerbomb. Not quite the Last Ride but a powerbomb that got the crowd out of their seats.
JBL reminded us that the match is no holds barred as The Undertaker brings a chair into proceedings as this match continues with no great impetus. The Undertaker nailed Reigns with a chokeslam on the chair followed by the Tombstone. A pin attempt complete with trademark tongue saw Reigns kick out, frustrating the Deadman. And the crowd. The pair attempt the ‘reversing tombstone’ but can’t quite stay on their feet which led to a Superman punch from Reigns.
As we mercifully reached the home stretch Reigns used the chair viciously on The Undertaker. Reminiscent of Stone Cold and The Rock at WrestleMania X-7. The crowd rally behind Undertaker but they know what’s about to happen. A second spear isn’t enough to beat the Phenom. A third spear won’t do either and once again the crowd rallied, this time with more hope.
The Undertaker struggled to his feet as Reigns implored him to stay down. Undertaker tells Reigns that “he doesn’t have the balls” to finish off the Deadman. Reigns criss-crossed the ring and landed the fatal spear to win the match. Inflicting only The Undertaker’s second defeat at WrestleMania.
The real story of this match came after the bell. The Undertaker received a standing ovation from the crowd in Orlando as he symbolically left his hat, jacket, and gloves in the ring. Grown men were shown in tears as they believed that they had just seen the last match of one of pro wrestling’s true legends. The next night on Raw Roman Reigns gave one of the greatest promos of all time. Reigns was showered with boos for minutes on end from a crowd that thought he had retired one of the most beloved figures in WWE history. Roman silenced them all by simply saying “it’s my yard now.”
If this match had been the last of The Undertaker’s career or if it had propelled Roman Reigns to truly being the ‘big dog’ in WWE, then this match would rank much higher on this list. But it did neither. The Undertaker was back the next year with the same hat, jacket, and gloves he left in the ring. Reigns was still three years away from becoming ‘The Tribal Chief’ and truly seeing his career hit new heights. As it was, this was just a match with nothing on the line. It just so happened to be the main event of WrestleMania.
27. Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter – WrestleMania VII – WWF Championship – 1991
One of the most controversial WrestleMania main events of all time did not translate into one of the best as we reach, if not the dying embers of Hulkamania, certainly the waning flames.
There’s no getting away from it, the story leading to Hogan facing Slaughter was in fairly poor taste. Slaughter returned to WWE in 1990 as an Iraqi sympathiser and fan of Saddam Hussein. In August 1990, the United States launched Operation Desert Shield and brought about the first Gulf War in response to Iraq annexing Kuwait. A perfect wrestling storyline if ever there was one.
Slaughter won the WWF Championship from The Ultimate Warrior at the 1991 Royal Rumble thanks to interference from the ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage. Hulk Hogan, who won the 1991 Royal Rumble immediately challenged Slaughter for the title in the main event of WrestleMania. This marked the first time that the Royal Rumble winner challenged for the world championship in the same year at WrestleMania. Although it would be two more years before this became a recognised stipulation for winning the Royal Rumble.
The other interesting background information to WrestleMania VII is its venue. The event was held in the LA Memorial Sports Arena in front of sixteen-plus thousand fans. WrestleMania VII’s original venue was the adjacent LA Memorial Coliseum which reportedly could have held up to 100,000 fans. Speculation to the change of venue exists to this day. Some say that tickets were selling poorly for the event while the WWF cited security concerns given the story between Slaughter and Hogan. Whatever the true reason, the event was moved and the celebration of ‘Superstars and Stripes Forever’ went ahead indoors.
The crowd that had gathered in Los Angeles for the event were unanimously behind Hogan and it didn’t take long for the chants of ‘USA! USA!’ to fill the air. This WrestleMania was the first that saw Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan join Gorilla Monsoon on commentary, replacing Jesse Ventura.
Hogan controlled the match early on before unbelievably going to the top rope. Hulk then had his foot grabbed by Slaughter’s cornerman General Adnan. That distraction was enough for Slaughter to take control of the match. Deliberate in his offence, Slaughter punished Hogan as the crowd repeatedly showed their support for ‘The Hulkster.’
Slaughter brought a chair into the proceedings, busting Hogan’s face open as Adnan distracted the referee. The sight of Hogan’s [figuratively] red, white, and blue blood spilling was enough to send the crowd into an almost fever pitch as they cheered Hulk on.
As one last insult Slaughter locked Hogan in the camel clutch as he tried to make Hulk submit. Hulk powered out, attempting to send Slaughter into the corner but Slaughter outmaneuvered Hogan sending him crashing to the mat. Slaughter placed the flag of Iraq – yes, really – on Hogan as he attempted a pin. By now, we know what happened next.
Hogan kicked out at two, grabbed the offending flag, and tore it as the partisan crowd went wild. Slaughter launched punches as Hogan ‘Hulked up’. Three punches, Slaughter sent into the ropes, big boot, leg drop. Hogan wins, again.
Indulge me as I share some other interesting things about WrestleMania VII. It was the last televised match of The Hart Foundation as Bret prepared to launch into solo stardom. The Undertaker defeated Jimmy Snuka in the first match of his legendary Streak. Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth reunited in a truly poignant moment after two years apart as the ‘Macho Man’ had let ‘Macho Madness’ overtake him. With hindsight, these events are perhaps more noteworthy than the main event, where the result was never really in doubt.
However, the main event is why we’re here. Although the match was by no means a classic, it does have its fair share of positives. Slaughter was hated by the crowd, they were there to see him lose to America’s hero. Hulk Hogan was as beloved as ever in this match given the story to get here. The match had stakes, it seemed almost secondary at times but it was for the WWF Championship and that alone is reason enough for a WrestleMania main event.
26. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns – WrestleMania 34 – WWE Universal Championship – 2018
What Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns would have given for a crowd that cared about this match at WrestleMania 34 even half as much as the fans did in 1991.
A rematch from three years prior at WrestleMania 31, Lesnar again entered as champion with Reigns the challenger. This marked the first time that the WWE Universal Title would be honoured with the main event of WrestleMania.
Lesnar remained a massive attraction that gives any match he’s a part of a big fight feel. Reigns was still being booed by the crowd as they resolutely refused to take to him on wrestling’s biggest stage.
Reigns had won an Elimination Chamber match to earn his place in the main event. In the lead-up to the match Reigns had criticised Lesnar for being an absent champion. Lesnar was a rare presence on WWE television since defeating Goldberg for the Universal Title at WrestleMania 33. Reigns clashed with Vince McMahon and even US Marshals in the build-up but still, when WrestleMania came around, the response to Reigns was hugely negative.
The match started at the usual frenetic pace of Brock Lesnar matches. The combatants traded German suplexes and Superman punches before the action spilled to the outside. Lesnar started clearing the commentary tables before launching Reigns face-first towards Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman. By this point, the crowd in New Orleans had already chanted for CM Punk.
Lesnar slowed the match right down as he began throwing Reigns around the ring at will. The champion headed back to the announce tables with bad intentions on his mind. An F-5 attempt was blocked by Reigns who slammed Lesnar into the ring post. Reigns then speared Lesnar over an announce table with Lesnar lucky there was an abandoned chair ready to bear the brunt of his landing.
Reigns then took firm control hitting a Superman punch and two spears as the crowd in New Orleans grew more vociferous in their dislike of this match. Lesnar kicked out to absolutely no reaction as the crowd is now immune to finishing moves ending Brock Lesnar matches if there’s less than a good handful of them. There hadn’t even been an F-5 yet.
A third spear attempt was met with a nasty knee to the face from Lesnar. An F-5 followed for Reigns to kick out. A second F-5 for another kick out and the crowd are still not reacting to anything happening in the ring. Lesnar hits a third F-5 and this time the kick out from Reigns gets the faintest reaction from the crowd. It was three F-5s that ended The Streak of The Undertaker, Lesnar now needed more than that to put Reigns away.
Brock then revisited the commentary tables for another F-5, this time through an announce table, and Reigns was left completely helpless. A fifth F-5 merited another kick out from the challenger and this was now beyond ridiculous. Brock then smashed Reigns with elbow strikes, causing Roman to bleed profusely from the forehead.
Another F-5 attempt was thwarted as Reigns maniacally hit two spears out of nowhere with both men now covered in Reigns’ blood. Reigns attempted the criss-cross of the ropes for the spear that put The Undertaker away the previous year but was caught on the shoulders of Lesnar for another F-5, or at this point an F-30 if you will. Lesnar covered and finally claimed the victory.
The crowd came to life for the three count and Lesnar retaining his championship in a result most of them didn’t see coming. Lesnar held the title until SummerSlam 2018 when Reigns finally dethroned The Beast Incarnate.
25. Triple H vs. Randy Orton – WrestleMania 25 – WWE Championship – 2009
As personal a story has been told leading to a WrestleMania main event. Orton was at his psychotic best as he decimated the McMahon family in the lead-up to this match. After punting both Shane and Vince in their heads, Orton plunged to new depths. Kissing an unconscious Stephanie McMahon in front of her husband.
This match was for Triple H’s WWE Championship but given the level of hate between the two men involved, this was sure to be an all-out war. Except for the stipulation that meant if Triple H was disqualified or counted out, he’d lose his title. That might get in the way of a blowout brawl that was befitting of such a story.
Orton claimed his place in the main event of WrestleMania by winning the 2009 Royal Rumble. Triple H won the WWE Championship in an Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out in February. As Orton waged war on the McMahon family, Triple H convinced Orton to challenge him for the title at WrestleMania. Thus allowing The Game to exact his revenge on Orton.
Triple H put the boots to Orton early on, getting carried away as the referee reminded him if he is disqualified then he loses the title. The distraction to The Game was enough for an RKO ‘outta-nowhere’. That was quickly followed up by Triple H hitting the Pedigree.
As the match wore on with each man trading the advantage, the fans only seemed to come to life for something distracting them elsewhere in the crowd. Bear in mind they had already seen one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time earlier in the night between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
Triple H hit Orton with a Harley Race high knee, a Stinger splash, and a Double-A spinebuster in his tribute to eighties NWA. Orton responded with a massive dropkick, catching Triple H in the face as the champion came off the top rope. Orton attempted his debilitating punt kick only to have his foot caught by Triple H before Orton could connect with his head.
Triple H sent Orton to the outside where he faced a dilemma. Either crack Orton in the head with a television monitor or keep his championship. Ultimately The Game erred on the side of keeping the match going, instead opting for a Pedigree attempt on Orton through the announce table. Orton reversed and hit a back body drop before hitting a DDT on the floor. With Triple H on the floor, Orton left him to be counted out with The Game barely making it back in the ring at nine to save his title.
Orton then sent Triple H into the referee causing a brief moment of lawlessness. A deliberate Orton reached under the ring to emerge with Triple H’s trademark sledgehammer. As Orton made his way back into the ring, it turned out he was too methodical in his movement as he got caught with a punt to the head from Triple H. With Orton and the referee both down, Triple H smashed the sledgehammer into the head of his challenger. Triple H hit the Pedigree on a lifeless Orton and retained his championship.
A perfectly reasonable match between two men who have had better in the main event of WrestleMania. However, after the deeply personal story that had been told between them, Orton, Triple H, and the crowd watching in the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas would have been better served with a no-holds-barred, knock down drag out fight.
24. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania V – WWF Championship – 1989
The night the Mega Powers explode!
Following Savage’s victory at WrestleMania IV, he and Hogan formed a friendship that saw the two men headline the first SummerSlam event in August 1988. The Mega Powers defeated The Mega Bucks team of André The Giant and Ted DiBiase.
At the Survivor Series in November The Mega Powers captained a five-man team to victory. Defeating a team captained by The Twin Towers of Akeem and Big Boss Man. Savage and Hogan were the sole survivors of their team with Hogan claiming the decisive pinfall.
Cracks were starting to show between Savage and Hogan at the 1989 Royal Rumble. With Savage tangled up in the ropes with Bad News Brown, Hogan tipped Brown over the top rope but eliminated Savage in the process. The WWF Champion was not pleased with Hogan and let The Hulkster know all about it.
Miss Elizabeth stepped between the two men pleading with both to calm down. The scene ended with Savage and Hogan shaking hands and embracing before Savage left the ring. Hogan might have wished he hadn’t eliminated his tag team partner as the next two entrants were Akeem and the Big Boss Man who between them eliminated Hogan from the match.
Hogan and Savage teamed up again in February at The Main Event II against Boss Man and Akeem. After a strong start for the Mega Powers, this is the night the team came to an end. Akeem threw Savage between the ropes onto Miss Elizabeth at ringside, apparently knocking her out. Hogan carried Elizabeth to a stretcher and accompanied her to the back leaving Savage to fend off the giant opponents.
As Elizabeth seemingly regained consciousness after having her blood pressure taken, Hogan returned to the ring. Savage greeted his partner with a slap by way of a tag and the Macho Man left to tend to his wife. This being the eighties, Hogan managed to defeat The Twin Towers by himself.
In a confrontation in the first aid area, Hogan pleaded with Savage to calm down and listen to him. Savage attacked, nailing Hogan with his WWF Title belt before uncomfortably dragging Elizabeth to the ground. The two men were on a collision course, and the collision was set for the main event of WrestleMania V.
The year-long story to get to this main event is no doubt a top ten WrestleMania story. However, the match did not quite live up to what both men are capable of. With the crowd firmly behind Hogan and Miss Elizabeth in a neutral corner, Savage faced an uphill battle.
The two combatants went back and forth trading moves until Hogan received a cut over his eye. Hogan rallied and body-slammed Savage directly over the top rope to the floor. Elizabeth stopped Hogan from driving Savage into the ring post by blocking Hogan’s path. Savage berated her before the referee sent her to the back.
The Macho Man controlled Hogan for much of the rest of the match taking whatever shortcut he could muster to gain the upper hand. Savage went to the top rope and nailed his unparalleled flying elbow drop. He should’ve known better.
One ‘Hulk-Up’ later and there was a new World Wrestling Federation Champion as Hulk ruled the world once again.
23. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho – WrestleMania X8 – Undisputed WWF Championship – 2002
First things first – this match had no business being the main event of WrestleMania X8. The match could not outshine the spectacle of The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan earlier in the night and it would surely be better thought of in hindsight had it not gone on last in front of an exhausted crowd.
Triple H returned to the WWF in January 2002. The Game had been out of action since May with a torn quadriceps muscle. Having previously run roughshod over the company with various factions and most recently with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the Two-Man Power Trip, Triple H had no love lost with the fans. However, after such a prolonged period out of action, The Game returned to a rapturous reception in Madison Square Garden.
A few weeks later Triple H earned his way into his second WrestleMania main event by winning the 2002 Royal Rumble. Chris Jericho made it to the main event of WrestleMania by becoming the first-ever Undisputed WWF Champion in December. Jericho famously won a one-night four-man tournament to unify the previous WWF and WCW Championships. Y2J has not soon let people forget the night he defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in one night to achieve the feat.
A straightforward story of a returning hero back to claim his place at the top of the wrestling business. Except for one thing, Triple H’s wife, Stephanie McMahon.
While Triple H had returned as a beloved star, Stephanie McMahon was anything but loved. A true villain’s villain. Attempting to regain her influence over Triple H, Stephanie faked a pregnancy. When The Game found out about this, he was obviously less than impressed. As you would be if the woman you had drugged and married while unconscious at a drive-through wedding chapel in Las Vegas had attempted to deceive you in such a cruel way.
In a memorable scene on Raw, Triple H brought about the end of his wedded bliss to Stephanie by revealing his knowledge of her ruse during a vow renewal ceremony. Naturally, this caused Stephanie to turn to her now estranged husband’s rival to help quash Triple H’s attempts at winning the title. The rival in this case just so happened to be the man who took trash-talking Stephanie to new heights. Using phrases you wouldn’t dare utter on television about a woman these days, Jericho had the audience in the palm of his hand as he verbally pummeled the billion-dollar princess. Time is a great healer.
A further wrinkle in the story in the build-up to this match was Jericho’s attempt to re-injure Triple H’s leg, which was heavily bandaged for the match.
The match grasped the crowd’s attention at Stephanie’s first involvement. With Jericho trapped in the figure-four leg lock, Stephanie raked the eyes of Triple H to break the hold. Triple H then dragged Stephanie up onto the apron where she was speared by Jericho. Triple H then brought Stephanie into the ring where he set up the Pedigree. The crowd in Toronto rose to their feet, they wanted one thing from this match. This attempt however was thwarted by Jericho hitting Triple H with a missile dropkick from the top rope. The crowd settled back into their seats.
Jericho was now firmly in control as he worked on Triple H’s surgically-repaired leg. Stephanie prowled ringside looking for any opportunity to get a shot in on her husband behind the referee’s back.
Jericho introduced a chair but can’t use it while Stephanie distracts the official once more. Taking matters into her own hands, McMahon entered the ring and claimed the steel chair. She is soon disarmed by referee Earl Hebner as she took aim at Triple H. After remonstrating with Hebner Stephanie then turned into the waiting arms of her husband. Triple H once more set up for the Pedigree, this time hitting it as the fans went wild.
An even louder roar was to follow as Jericho jumped into a Pedigree of his own and one was all it took for the pinfall and a new champion.
A match that is somewhat unfairly tarnished by what came before it on the WrestleMania X8 card but a perfectly serviceable ascension back to the top for Triple H.
22. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX – WWF Championship – 1993
The real main event of WrestleMania IX saw Bret Hart defend his WWF Championship against the mighty Yokozuna.
The sumo star became the first beneficiary of the Royal Rumble stipulation with the winner receiving the WrestleMania title shot. Yokozuna outlasted twenty-nine other men to win the January showpiece in 1993. Hart entered the match as champion after defeating Ric Flair at a house show in Saskatoon, Canada for the first of his five WWF Title reigns.
Yokozuna was at the peak of his powers in this match. Leaner and more agile than the rematch between these two men one year later. Hart was out to prove he was more than just a transitional champion and he took the fight to Yokozuna straight from the opening bell.
Despite an early flurry, a simple shoulder barge from the five hundred pound Yokozuna was enough to send Hart sprawling to the outside. With the challenger near the ropes, Hart ingeniously wrapped one of Yoko’s feet between them, allowing him to pull the other leg to bring Yokozuna crashing to the mat. The cheering crowd knew what it meant just for Yokozuna to be taken off his feet.
Hart continued to work quickly, he would have to if he was to retain his title. Showering blow after blow onto Yokozuna, Hart ascended to his favoured middle rope to drive the point of his elbow into the supposed-Japanese star.
A simple clothesline from Yokozuna turned the tide as he took control of the match and slowed things to a snail’s pace.A leg drop from the challenger – not the last time we’d see that move at WrestleMania IX – looked enough to cave in Hart’s chest.
Hart evaded certain disaster as he moved out of the way of a Yokozuna splash in the corner. Hart quickly followed up with a bulldog onto the giant challenger from the second rope. Yokozuna went down once more after two clotheslines from the champion. Hart then inadvertently exposed the top turnbuckle as Yokozuna attempted to drag him from the corner.
Yokozuna came off the worst after meeting that turnbuckle head-on and was laid out on the canvas, allowing Hart to lock in the Sharpshooter. With Hart using all his strength to keep Yoko’s tree-like legs wrapped around his own in the submission, he became a sitting duck for the dastardly Mr. Fuji. Fuji threw his ever-ready salt into the eyes of the champion and a blinded Hart went down. That was enough for Yokozuna to cover The Hitman and claim the win and his first WWF Championship.
And they all lived happily ever after. Or they would have if it hadn’t been for Hulk Hogan.
21. Triple H vs. Roman Reigns – WrestleMania 32 – WWE World Heavyweight Championship – 2016
Another WrestleMania, another attempt at crowning Roman Reigns. This time with the hated leader of The Authority being the one to face Reigns.
Roman Reigns eventually captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the 2015 Survivor Series. Reigns defeated his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose in a tournament final after the title had been vacated due to injury by the third man in the Shield, Seth Rollins.
The title marked Reigns’ eventual rise to the top of WWE after a few start-stop pushes as the crowd failed to get behind him. The excitement and celebration would last for approximately five minutes before Sheamus cashed in his Money In The Bank contract to beat Reigns there and then. Another false dawn.
Reigns challenged for the title again at the TLC event in December. After interference from Sheamus’ League Of Nations allies, the Irishman retained. An irate Reigns then took his frustrations out physically on Triple H.
The next night on Raw, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon granted Reigns a rematch. Incensed from Reigns’ attack on McMahon’s son-in-law, however, Reigns had to put his career on the line. Reigns agreed and overcame wave after wave of interference to get the championship back around his waist.
Not one to be deterred from repeatedly screwing over an employee, McMahon played his ace card. McMahon determined that the 2016 Royal Rumble match would not be for a title shot at WrestleMania but was now for the title itself. And the number one entrant for that match? Roman Reigns.
Reigns lasted almost an hour in his quest to defend his championship. However, much of that time was spent receiving treatment after he was attacked by the League Of Nations. Reigns returned to the match but to no avail as the number 30 entrant, none other than Triple H ended Reigns night and his title reign by winning the match.
Roman Reigns latterly earned his right to face Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania by winning a triple threat match at Fastlane in February. In that match, Reigns defeated Ambrose and Brock Lesnar who themselves faced off one-on-one at WrestleMania.
Triple H was cheered considerably in contrast to Reigns by the Dallas crowd. Stephanie McMahon accompanied her husband to ringside and was sure to be a thorn in the side of the challenger throughout the match.
The crowd was merciless towards Reigns early on in his second WrestleMania main event in a row. This was Triple H’s seventh and to date his last visit to the headline match at ‘The Grandaddy Of Them All’.
It didn’t take long for Stephanie to interject herself. McMahon distracted the referee to allow Triple H to hit a low blow on Reigns. This allowed The Cerebral Assassin to dominate Reigns, albeit incredibly slowly.
Any offence from Reigns received constant jeers from the crowd as he fought back against Triple H on the outside of the ring. What could have been minutes later but what felt like a long weekend, the match sparked into life as Reigns nailed Triple H with a spear through the crowd barrier.
Triple H gained the upper hand again and locked Reigns in a series of submission holds targeting Reigns’ arm and shoulder. Nobody for a second believed Reigns was submitting but the holds certainly served to weaken the challenger. Roman powered out before nailing the champion with a spear from nowhere. Stephanie pulled the official from the ring to stop the three-count before then immediately letting him back in the ring to re-start it. Thankfully for her, Triple H kicked out.
McMahon then entered the ring and if you’ve been paying attention to Stephanie’s involvement in WrestleMania main events thus far, you know what’s about to happen. Stephanie berated the referee as Triple H got to his feet. Both the referee and Triple H, who were in front of Stephanie, could see what she couldn’t. A rampaging Roman Reigns launching a spear. The champion and the official split leaving McMahon to take the full brunt of Reigns. The crowd came unglued. And then the match just kept going.
Stephanie recovered enough on the floor to hand Triple H his sledgehammer. Triple H failed to land a single blow with it as Reigns criss-crossed the ring to hit a massive spear for the win. There was some positive crowd reaction for the new champion. However, it was far from the crowning glory you imagine WWE wanted to achieve.
20. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VI – WWF and Intercontinental Championship – 1990
The Ultimate Challenge – a title for title showcase between the two biggest stars in the World Wrestling Federation at the time.
After dominating wrestling in the 1980s, including main-eventing almost every WrestleMania, Hogan faced a challenge like no other at WrestleMania VI.
Hogan had held the WWF Title since defeating Randy Savage in the main event of WrestleMania V. The Ultimate Warrior defeated Rick Rude at SummerSlam in 1989 to become a two-time Intercontinental Champion. As Warrior’s popularity with the crowd soared, a collision course with Hogan was inevitable.
The two men locked horns in the 1990 Royal Rumble match. With the two fan favourites left alone in the ring, neither man gained a definitive advantage. Hogan won that match last eliminating Mr. Perfect. One week later, Hogan issued ‘The Ultimate Challenge’ to Warrior for the main event of WrestleMania.
The crowd in Toronto was deafening for both competitor’s entrances. Commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura laid out so the full weight of noise from the fans could be heard. A thumb war between these two megastars would have had these fans in raptures. It’s a happy coincidence that Hogan returned to the SkyDome at WrestleMania X8 where he got an even bigger response all those years later.
A test of strength or a ‘Greco-Roman knuckle lock’ saw Warrior take Hulk to his knees as the crowd once again got to their feet. I cannot stress enough the crowd reaction to this match, it might be the only reason it ranks as high as it does on this list.
Warrior gained the advantage, as he sent Hogan to the outside with Hulk apparently injuring his knee. An injury that would last for about a minute as The Hulkster miraculously recovered, taking the fight to Warrior.
After Hogan dominated for a spell, The Ultimate Warrior gave Hulk a taste of his own medicine as he ‘Warriored-up’ becoming impervious to Hogan’s offence. Warrior locked in a bear hug to bring the match to a complete standstill – but you tell this crowd that. They’re here for it, cheering Hogan to break the hold. Which, of course, he does.
Warrior amazingly gets Hulk up for a very uncomfortable-looking gorilla press slam, followed up with a splash. As Hogan kicked out at two, it was his turn to power up as he floored Warrior and went for his patented leg drop. Warrior moved and with Hogan still down, the Intercontinental Champion immediately hit another splash for the win. Somebody call a roofer in Toronto because the ceiling then came off the SkyDome as the crowd erupted.
This was not a technical masterclass by any means but this was an iconic match. The fans added just as much as the two competitors in the ring. And although their in-ring reputation may precede them both Warrior and Hogan played their roles extremely well. The WWF had a new face of the company and Hulk Hogan had finally been dethroned at WrestleMania, the winds of change were blowing in the company…until next year at least.
19. Batista vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 21 – World Heavyweight Championship – 2005
If this list was for the story leading into these main event matches, you’d be hard pushed to find a better number one than this. Evolution’s implosion. The slow burn of Batista from the group’s enforcer to the man that took down The King of Kings, Triple H. This was storytelling at its finest.
Batista’s star had quietly been on the rise for several months as Triple H busied himself with reclaiming the World Heavyweight Title from another former Evolution member, Randy Orton. By the time the 2005 Royal Rumble came around Batista was the hot favourite to win, alongside SmackDown’s fastest rising star, John Cena.
The end of that Rumble match has become the stuff of legend. Batista and Cena went over the top rope at the exact same time in a finish reminiscent of the 1994 Royal Rumble. This time, however, that finish wasn’t planned and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wasn’t happy about it.
Storming to the ring, McMahon attempted to slide in and tore a quadriceps in front of the watching world. Cena, Batista, and the officials in the ring all then took their instructions from a seated McMahon with nobody really sure why he was still seated. The match was ordered to restart and Batista dispatched Cena to win the Rumble and claim his place in the main event of WrestleMania. As McMahon made his way to the back, refusing any help he tore his other quad. Not a great night for the boss.
A fantastic night for Evolution, however. Triple H retained his World Heavyweight Title against Orton and now Batista had won the Royal Rumble. Where could it possibly go wrong?
Triple H’s plan was simple as he attempted to avoid having to face The Animal at WrestleMania. Convince Batista to defect to SmackDown and challenge John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield for the WWE Championship. Triple H rules Raw, Batista rules SmackDown, Evolution rule WWE – straightforward enough. Triple H worked hard at this plan, going so far as to get a white limousine resembling JBL’s to try and run Batista down.
Batista had a decision to make and as the time came for him to sign whichever contract he chose for his match at WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble winner overheard a conversation between Triple H and Ric Flair. The champion discussed being behind the limo ruse and claimed that Batista wasn’t smart enough to make the right decision. With this new information, The Animal was clever enough to outsmart The Cerebral Assassin on Raw.
With both the Raw and SmackDown contracts in hand for the title match at WrestleMania, Batista signalled with a thumbs up that he was sticking by Triple H while simultaneously heading to SmackDown. The thumb turned however and Batista attacked nailing Triple H with a powerbomb through a table. Batista had made his decision – he was taking the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H at WrestleMania.
The crowd in Los Angeles was excited for this main event, even giving the bell ringing to signal the start of the match an ovation.
Batista displayed his power advantage early on as he took the initiative in the match. A distraction from Flair on the outside swung things back the way of the champion. Triple H methodically wore down his challenger before uncharacteristically heading to the top rope. Taking a page out of Flair’s playbook, Triple H came off worst after attempting an aerial assault.
The two men ended up on the outside as Triple H attempted a Pedigree onto the steel steps. Batista reversed it, catapulting The Game into the ring post causing Triple H to bleed profusely. With Triple H fading, Batista took over beginning a slow execution of his former mentor.
Ric Flair involved himself one time too many, taking a shot at Batista on the outside of the ring. This caused Batista to floor Flair. Batista then finished the job on Flair when the Nature Boy tried to attack him with the title belt. Batista caught Flair in the act and dropped him with a spinebuster. As the referee tried to clear Flair out of the ring, Triple H clocked Batista with the belt as the fans in the Staples Center came to life once again.
A low blow from Triple H acted as his final gambit. The champion followed that up with an attempted Pedigree to put Batista way but The Animal blocked the move. One Batista Bomb later and the story was complete – Batista was the World Heavyweight Champion.
18. Hulk Hogan vs. André The Giant – WrestleMania III – WWF Championship – 1987
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. This match is nowhere near as good in-ring as many matches ranking lower than it on this list. But, this match might feature the single most iconic moment in WrestleMania’s main event history. That can’t be ignored. Of all Hulk Hogan’s main events at WrestleMania – and we’ve nearly covered them all by now – this one is, for many people the one that immediately springs to mind.
This match all stemmed from a series of events on ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s interview segment Piper’s Pit. Firstly, WWF President Jack Tunney used the segment to present Hulk Hogan with a trophy for holding the WWF World Championship for three years. Hogan had indeed held the title continuously since winning it for the first time on January 23rd, 1984. André joined Hogan on the segment to congratulate his long-time friend on the achievement.
One week later and Tunney was back on Piper’s Pit with another, much smaller trophy. This one was presented to André for remaining undefeated for a mammoth fifteen years in the WWF. A fact that for wrestling passes the threshold for acceptable despite not being strictly true. Hogan returned the favour from the week previous and appeared to congratulate André. As Hulk told us all somethin’ brother, an unimpressed André skulked off.
This surprisingly led to a battle of wills from two of Hogan’s old rivals, Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper. Ventura appeared on Piper’s Pit to say that he knew a secret about André but wouldn’t tell. ‘The Body’ then challenged Piper to get Hogan to appear on Piper’s Pit and he would bring The Giant and explain it all to the world. Piper accepted and brought Hogan on to the segment a week later. Jesse Ventura produced André but the Frenchman was not alone. He now had a manager in the form of Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.
A shocked Hogan pleaded with his friend to see sense and not listen to Heenan who had tried to prise away the WWF Title from Hogan the previous year at WrestleMania 2 with King Kong Bundy. André The Giant challenged Hogan for his title at WrestleMania 3 before ripping Hulkster’s t-shirt off and the crucifix from Hogan’s neck. An incredulous Hogan reluctantly accepted the challenge and the main event of WrestleMania 3 was set – André The Giant vs. Hulk Hogan. Or as Gorilla Monsoon preferred ‘The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object.’
André and Heenan made their entrance on a small motorised ring while being pelted with garbage by the Michigan crowd. Hogan forewent the ring and made his usual energetic entrance.
The two men faced off in an iconic image as flashbulbs lit up the Pontiac Silverdome for the biggest WrestleMania match up to that point in history. Hogan went for the bodyslam early but collapsed under the mammoth frame of André for a two-count. The Giant then attacked Hogan’s back before hitting a bodyslam of his own. And another. André continued the very slow beatdown of Hogan before Hulk briefly rallied. As Hogan tried to bring The Giant down, he ran headfirst into André’s size 22 boot.
André The Giant then locked in a two and a half minute bear hug as the match came to a complete stop. The crowd didn’t though. Hogan’s reactions as he struggled to break free of the Giant’s grasp had the fans on the edge of their seats. A flurry of punches broke the hold before André cut Hogan off again. The two men fought briefly on the outside with neither gaining a definitive advantage.
Back in the ring with the crowd growing louder in anticipation, Hogan dodged a big boot and nailed a clothesline finally bringing André off his feet. Hogan ‘Hulks up’ feeding off the crowd as they feed off him. And then it happens. The most iconic moment in WrestleMania history. As André got back to his feet, Hulk Hogan lifted the five hundred pound Giant in the air and slammed him to the mat. A leg drop followed and a pinfall followed that. André The Giant now – definitively – had lost in the WWF and Hulkamania went marching on.
17. The Rock vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 29 – WWE Championship – 2013
The match that literally re-defined ‘once in a lifetime.’
The Rock and John Cena had been at odds since Rock’s return to WWE prior to WrestleMania 27 in 2011. The Rock cost Cena an opportunity to win the WWE Title in that main event allowing The Miz to retain.
Two years on and these two men had already headlined a WrestleMania in 2012. A new take on ‘Icon vs. Icon’ saw The Rock stand tall in his hometown of Miami – more on that later.
In 2013 however, there was not just pride and ego on the line. This was for championship gold. The Rock announced on the 1000th episode of Raw in the summer of 2012 that he was going to challenge for the WWE Championship at the 2013 Royal Rumble which was still several months away.
CM Punk had been WWE Champion since reclaiming the title at Survivor Series 2011. Over a year later, Punk still held that title and was the one to defend it against The Rock at the Royal Rumble. The Rock overcame Punk and won his eighth WWE Championship.
Earlier that evening the 2013 Royal Rumble match took place. John Cena entered that match at number nineteen and was looking to make up for a poor 2012, by his standards. Cena failed to hold a championship that year and also unsuccessfully cashed in his Money In The Bank at Raw 1000. 2013 brought a change in fortunes for Cena as he lasted nearly twenty-seven minutes on his way to winning the Royal Rumble. It did not take long for Cena to settle on which title to challenge for at WrestleMania as he declared the next night he was going after the WWE Title and The Rock.
CM Punk was the one man who threatened to get in Cena and The Rock’s way of headlining their second WrestleMania in a row. Punk challenged The Rock to a rematch for the title at the Elimination Chamber in February. When Punk lost again to The Great One, he turned to Cena. CM Punk challenged Cena on Raw for his place in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Cena accepted and defeated Punk in the last one-on-one match to date between the two men. With no more barriers in the way, the course was set for The Rock vs. John Cena II at WrestleMania.
The crowd in New Jersey, much like in Miami the previous year were firmly behind The Rock. The two icons began the match in cagey fashion as the commentators reinforced how important this match was to the career of Cena and his legacy in professional wrestling. Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry Lawler underlined this to the point of it becoming apparent that Cena could not come away from this match with anything other than the WWE Title. A fairly muted crowd suggested that they felt the same way.
The two competitors exchanged reversals of their most recognisable moves before The Rock briefly locked in the sharpshooter. Cena powered out and attempted a five-knuckle shuffle but Rock moved then planted Cena with a DDT. The Rock stalked Cena poised for a Rock Bottom but Cena countered into a crossface that Michael Cole just pretended was his STF submission hold.
A five-knuckle shuffle connected from Cena before his attempt at adjusting The Rock’s attitude was reversed into a spinebuster. The crowd rose as one for the most electrifying move in all of entertainment but were left unfulfilled as Cena actually locked in the STF this time.
The Rock powered out of the submission before landing a Rock Bottom for a two-count. Cena hit an Attitude Adjustment out of nowhere and got the same result. The Rock slammed Cena with another spinebuster and this time surely, as the crowd rose in unison again we would see the People’s Elbow. Rock hit the elbow drop but only got another near fall on Cena. A further Rock Bottom only garnered another two count as the era of finishing moves not finishing matches is truly upon us.
Whichever backstage agent helped put this match together deserves as much credit as The Rock and Cena for the storytelling that was about to unfold. The year before – and we’ll discuss it further down the list in-depth saw Cena attempt a People’s Elbow before that act of hubris caused his undoing. This year The Rock tempted fate when he attempted a five-knuckle shuffle on Cena. In similar scenes from 2012, Cena jumped up to his feet and caught The Rock in an Attitude Adjustment. Another two count brought the crowd in MetLife Stadium to their feet. This match had just picked up the intensity.
Cena wound up hitting a Rock Bottom on The Rock in shades of the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock WrestleMania trilogy. Rock kicked out and as the camera caught Cena at his most confused a new meme was born.
Now followed the best part of the entire match. With John Cena at a loss for how to put away the champion, he returned to his thoughts of last year. To really show The Rock up he was going to attempt a People’s Elbow, defeating The Great One with his own illustrious move. The crowd noise indicated they knew what this meant. Cena was about to repeat his mistake. Would it cost him again?
No, because Cena was smarter than that. As Cena hit the ropes, The Rock leaped up ready to seize the chance to put Cena away again. But Cena didn’t spring back off the ropes, he held on luring The Rock to him. Cena hoisted Rock up on his shoulders for another Attitude Adjustment. This heartbreakingly was not the end of this match. Rock reversed the AA into a Rock Bottom for another two count.
Counter followed counter followed counter before Cena managed to hit one more Attitude Adjustment for the win. A cheer greeted Cena’s win from the reported 80,000-plus fans. Cena had won his record-breaking eleventh WWE Championship and left The Rock in the ring to receive the applause of the grateful crowd.
WrestleMania went off the air with the two icons raising one another’s hands and ending their trilogy of WrestleMania matches and moments.
16. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff – WrestleMania – 1985
I’ll be honest, nobody’s more surprised than I am that this match is so high on this list.
Firstly, pre-conceived ideas of what eighties wrestling is compared to what we see on television today means that it’s hard to compare like for like. Also, it’s a tag-team match in the main event of WrestleMania. That’s borderline unthinkable today. Add to that the fact that one of the competitors isn’t even a professional wrestler – it’s almost unfathomable as to why this match is in this position on this list.
Until you watch it. And you realise the genius of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.
Rock ’N’ Wrestling was the phenomenon sweeping the WWF in the early eighties. The connection began with Captain Lou Albano, long-time wrestler and now manager appearing in Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun music video. This appearance morphed into a storyline between Lauper and Albano that culminated in ‘The Brawl To End It All.’ Part of that event was shown live on the burgeoning MTV. Albano and Lauper both picked representatives to face each other in a match. Albano chose the longest-reigning Women’s Champion of all time The Fabulous Moolah. Lauper chose Wendi Richter and the match was on for the WWF Women’s Championship.
Richter pinned Moolah to win the WWF Women’s Championship ending a reign that – according to WWE – lasted almost 28 years. After this Lauper and Albano reconciled their differences with Lauper presenting Albano with an award in December 1984.
One man upset with the Rock ’N’ Wrestling connection was ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. He attacked Albano and Lauper before WWF Champion Hulk Hogan came to their rescue. This led to ‘The War To Settle The Score’ in February 1985, just weeks before the inaugural WrestleMania.
At that event Moolah’s chosen challenger Leilani Kai defeated Richter for the WWF Women’s Championship. In the main event, again shown live on MTV Hulk Hogan defeated Piper in a match for the WWF Title by disqualification. This occurred when Piper’s bodyguard Bob Orton Jr. and Paul Orndorff attacked Hogan. Mr. T who appeared in Rocky III with Hogan was sitting at ringside and attempted to come to The Hulkster’s aid. Both men were beaten down by Piper and company. The stage was now set for the main event of the first WrestleMania.
A pipe band playing Scotland The Brave heralded the arrival of Hot Rod, Mr. Wonderful, and the Cowboy to the ring. Piper absolutely exudes charisma out of every pore simply walking down the aisle. Hogan, Mr. T, and their cornerman Jimmy Snuka enter next – and they definitely did not walk the aisle in Madison Square Garden to Hulk’s Real American theme. The trio instead entered to the instantly recognisable ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ as the New York crowd did their best to take the roof off the Garden.
There was also the small matter of the greatest boxer of all time Muhammad Ali waiting in the ring for all the competitors. Ali acted in a role that would nowadays be known as an ‘outside enforcer’ while Pat Patterson officiated inside the ropes.
The presentation of this match and indeed the show is about as far from the definition of over-produced as you can find. People at ringside appear close enough to start banging on the apron should they choose to. It’s an almost claustrophobic scene that adds grittiness to the match, which is not something you’d immediately associate with Hulk Hogan matches.
Orndorff, who looks like he’s chiseled out of granite goes to start the match against Hogan. However, Piper pleads with his partner that he wants to get his hands on The Hulkster. With Piper now in the match, Mr. T screamed at Hogan to let him face Hot Rod. Hulk obliged and the crowd is going wild for two tags and no opponents having made contact.
Piper and T exchanged slaps before Piper took him to the canvas with some mat-based wrestling. Not missing a chance to paintbrush the back of Mr. T’s head while he’s at it. Mr. T managed to break free and hit Wade Barrett’s Wasteland on Piper.
Piper took exception and forced T back to his corner and the match broke down from there as all four competitors slugged it out. Orton, Snuka, and Ali then all burst into the ring as Pat Patterson could’ve done with a crook and two sheepdogs to help restore order. Ali took a vicious swing at Orton that the Cowboy was very lucky to avoid.
The villains regrouped on the outside before both Orndorff and Piper re-entered the ring to continue the melee. Hogan took control of Piper and we saw a welcome return to the undisputed move of the eighties as Hogan nailed Piper with the atomic drop. Hogan and T took Piper down with a double clothesline as a throng of people continued to mingle around at ringside. Mr. T hit a bodyslam on Piper and then an incredible hip toss on Paul Orndorff.
Piper and Orndorff took control of the match after sending Hogan to the outside. A double atomic drop on Hogan saw Ali enter the ring once more to try and restore order. Both teams exchanged tags as the advantage flowed back and forth.
Cowboy Bob Orton then decided to take matters into his own cast-wearing hands as he entered the ring. Orton was greeted by a massive jumping headbutt from Snuka – the only contribution Snuka made to any of this. Orton got back up instantly, heading to the top rope while the officials’ backs were turned. Orndorff held Hogan so Orton could smash him in the head with his cast but Hogan moved and Orton hit Orndorff. Hogan covered Mr. Wonderful despite the chaos surrounding him and that was enough for the historic victory.
Piper, in a final act of defiance, knocked down Patterson before he and Orton left the arena, leaving Orndorff laying.
It’s safe to say you won’t see another wrestling match quite like this one anytime soon, and in many ways, that’s a hell of a shame.
15. Edge vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 24 – World Heavyweight Championship – 2008
The Undertaker headlined a WrestleMania event for only the second time in his career in 2008. The main event of WrestleMania 24 saw Edge headline the event for the first time in his WWE Hall Of Fame career.
The Rated-R Superstar entered WrestleMania as World Heavyweight Champion and with La Familia watching his back. His group of Curt Hawkins, Zack Ryder, Chavo, and Vickie Guerrero had ensured Edge was the main man on SmackDown for several months.
Hawkins and Ryder had posed as Edge during a triple threat match at Armageddon in December 2007. The ensuing chaos allowed Edge to take advantage and win the World Championship from Batista.
The Undertaker, who had also been a participant in Armageddon’s title match had to go through the Elimination Chamber to claim his place in the main event. The Deadman defeated Batista, MVP, Finlay, The Great Khali, and Big Daddy V to become the number one contender.
For only the second time in history, the WrestleMania main event was World Championship vs. The Streak.
At this point in The Undertaker’s career, his Streak sat at 15-0. Unlike WrestleMania 13 eleven years prior The Streak formed a big part of the story between Undertaker and Edge. Before this match Edge had never been pinned or submitted at WrestleMania either. The only blemish on his record had been a Money In The Bank match at WrestleMania 23 that he did not win. Ironically, Edge later beat the winner of that match Mr. Kennedy to claim the briefcase anyway.
The match itself had a lot to overcome. The Orlando crowd had just witnessed The Big Show’s exhibition with boxing great Floyd Mayweather. More poignantly, earlier in the night they had seen ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair’s career come to an end at the hands of Shawn Michaels. Thankfully, spectacles at WrestleMania are very much The Undertaker’s thing.
The Undertaker made his entrance with druids but sans hat and the 43-year-old Phenom looked to be in incredible shape. Edge entered the arena with his trademark entrance with the title around his waist reminding us in 2021 that the fact that the big gold belt is not used anymore is a travesty.
SmackDown’s second WrestleMania main event since the initial brand split in 2002 was announced by Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman. As the WWE Hall Of Fame team, Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler sat out the main event of the biggest show of the year.
Cole and Coachman mentioned Edge’s own streak, being that he had never lost to The Undertaker. Unlike the André fib, this was just an outright lie. Granted it hadn’t happened in one-on-one competition on television since 2000 but there were plenty of tag-team matches since that proved The Undertaker could beat Edge.
Undertaker took initial control of the match before Edge was able to take charge. The Orlando crowd yet to really involve themselves in the contest. That was until Undertaker shoved Edge off the top turnbuckle to the outside. With the champion gathering his wits on the floor, The Undertaker took to the air flying over the top rope with his trademark dive. Undertaker crashed into Edge as the two competitors hit the deck of the Citrus Bowl.
The story of this match was Edge could counter everything The Undertaker threw at him. Old School, the Last Ride, the Chokeslam, even the Tombstone – the Ultimate Opportunist had an answer for everything.
As the two men slugged it out, Undertaker nailed referee Jimmy Korderas with a big boot. The fans in attendance instantly began looking up the aisle way as they sensed shenanigans afoot. Edge knew what to do and after hitting a low blow went to the outside and grabbed a camera. The champion then smashed Taker in the head with it, laying him out in the middle of the ring.
With no referee, Edge could still not take advantage as The Undertaker then sat up. Edge attempted Undertaker’s Tombstone but Taker reversed into one of his own, planting Edge to the canvas. As the Deadman covered, Charles Robinson sprinted, and I mean sprinted down the massive entranceway in the Citrus Bowl, sliding in the ring for a close two-count.
Ryder and Hawkins made their way to ringside and as Undertaker despatched the ‘Edgeheads’ he then turned around into a waiting Spear. But this only gained a two-count once more. An exasperated Edge went to the corner again, poised to hit another Spear to end the match and retain his championship. This time after hitting the Phenom, Edge waited a fraction of a second too long and was enveloped into Taker’s Hell’s Gate submission.
With Edge desperately trying to reach the ropes and failing, the champion had no choice but to tap out and admit defeat. For the fourth time in five years, the main event of WrestleMania ended with a submission. More importantly, The Undertaker captured the World Heavyweight Championship once more, and The Streak rolled on.
14. Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair – WrestleMania 35 – WWE Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships – 2015
You can only have the first time once. And for the first time, women competed in the main event of WrestleMania. There couldn’t have been three better women to pick. But this is not here as the ‘women’s main event,’ this match stands on its own merit as a great WrestleMania main event.
Charlotte Flair is a first-ballot WWE Hall Of Famer in waiting. A 12-time Women’s Champion in WWE and NXT – an astonishing number for someone who only entered the wrestling business in 2012. She is only four title reigns behind the hallowed 16 of her father Ric Flair and John Cena.
Becky Lynch was an often overlooked member of wrestling’s Four Horsewomen. As Charlotte racked up titles on the main roster while Sasha Banks and Bayley stole headlines in NXT, Lynch’s own career trajectory seemed to pale in comparison. And then something quite incredible happened. Becky Lynch caught fire with the WWE Universe in a way not seen to that level since Daniel Bryan in 2014. As the crowd support for Lynch swelled, WWE had to abandon their own plans for the Irish star.
At SummerSlam 2015 Becky Lynch was due to face WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella for her title. Flair was then added to the match overcoming both women to win the gold. Afterward, Lynch viciously attacked Flair. While the intention was for Lynch to be the hated villain of the piece, the crowd inside the Barclays Center cheered and cheered and cheered some more for Lynch. The people had spoken, ‘The Man’ was born.
Lynch won the title from Flair a month later at Unforgiven but then the championship took a back seat. In the lead-up to Survivor Series, all stories in WWE focused on the battle for brand supremacy. A ten-woman tag team was due to take place at the event with a team of Raw stars facing a team of SmackDown stars. A champion vs. champion match was also due to take place between Ronda Rousey and Lynch – but everything changed when the blue brand attacked.
On the 12th November 2018 edition of Raw, Alexa Bliss and her Raw teammates held court in the ring before announcing their final member. Bliss revealed that the last member of Team Raw would come from the upcoming Sasha Banks vs. Bayley match. That match however proved to be a ruse from Bliss. As the two on-again/off-again friends competed, the members of Team Raw then attacked them both. Bliss then announced that Ruby Riott was the actual fifth member of the team.
With all of Raw’s team now in the ring a camera cut to backstage showing Becky Lynch with the Disarm-her armbar locked in on Raw’s champion Ronda Rousey. Lynch then swaggered to the ring to seemingly face Team Raw single-handedly. Her SmackDown teammates however were lying in wait and a brawl erupted. During which, Lynch came nose to fist with Nia Jax as an errant punch from Jax spread Lynch’s nose over her face. With ‘The Man’ spilling blood, an iconic image was born and support for Lynch went through the roof. Due to this injury, her proposed match with Rousey at Survivor Series was off. On SmackDown, Lynch handpicked her replacement to face Rousey – ‘The Queen’ Charlotte Flair.
‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey is a bona fide superstar. A celebrity, an Olympian, a movie star, a mixed martial artist. Rousey smashed down barriers for women in MMA, becoming the first woman ever signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A company that was on record as saying they would never promote women’s fights. Rousey could not and would not be denied. Tearing through the ranks of UFC as their inaugural Women’s Bantamweight Champion ‘The Most Dangerous Unarmed Woman In The World’ won twelve straight fights all by stoppage with only one going past the first round.
Rousey was derailed in November 2015 however as she was stopped by Holly Holm in the second round at UFC 193. With that loss, she also lost the title she had held for over two and a half years. An attempt to reclaim the title one year later ended in disaster as Amanda Nunes stopped Rousey after forty-eight seconds. This marked Rousey’s final UFC fight to date. Luckily for her fans, she did not have to look too far to decide what her next career steps were to be.
‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey was a wrestling fan from before she could talk. Rousey detailed struggling with her speech as a young child in her book ‘My Fight/Your Fight.’ Wrestling was one thing a young Rousey watched with her sisters and a lifelong passion was born.
At WrestleMania 31, The Rock plucked Rousey out of the California crowd during an altercation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. A then-undefeated MMA star, Rousey gladly helped The Rock as she took down Stephanie and Triple H much to the delight of the WWE fans in attendance. It wasn’t until January 2018 however that Rousey came to the company for more than a night.
After the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble match in 2018, the winner Asuka stood face-to-face in the ring with Raw and SmackDown Women’s Champions Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair. With the three women at a stand-off, the unmistakable sound of Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’ filled the arena heralding the arrival of Rousey. Wearing a leather jacket that was once worn by nickname-sake ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, Rousey made her intentions clear in the only way you can at the Royal Rumble – by pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
Rousey made her in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34 teaming with fellow Olympian Kurt Angle to take on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Rousey won the match for her team, submitting Stephanie with her armbar. By the time WrestleMania 35 came around Rousey was Raw Women’s Champion, still undefeated in the company and sick to death of hearing about Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
Rousey entered the main event of WrestleMania 35 as Raw Women’s Champion after winning the title in short order from Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam. But what of Flair and Lynch?
Lynch lost the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a triple threat match at the TLC event in December 2018 to Asuka. At the 2019 Royal Rumble Lynch failed to win the title back from Asuka so later in the night took matters into her own hands. With the women’s Royal Rumble match in progress, Lana was due to enter as the twenty-eighth entrant. However, an injury on the pre-show left her unable to compete in the match. Lynch pled her case with WWE official Finlay and in no mood to fight, he allowed Lynch to enter the Rumble. The crowd in Phoenix gave Lynch a deafening ovation that was only topped by their reaction to Lynch last eliminating Charlotte Flair and winning the whole thing.
Charlotte Flair’s own passage to the main event of WrestleMania is a murkier affair but at the same time, it could be argued the clearest of the lot. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon simply gave Charlotte Flair Lynch’s hard-won place in the WrestleMania main event, while suspending Lynch in the process. Eventually, Lynch won her way back into the match by defeating Flair by disqualification at the Fastlane event in March. So now it was a triple threat match for Rousey’s Raw Women’s Championship.
That was until Flair defeated Asuka for the SmackDown Women’s Title less than two weeks before WrestleMania. Now the match was ‘Winner Take All’ with both championships on the line.
Despite Rousey and Charlotte being champions, they both entered before the challenger. Rousey was played to the ring by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Flair arrived at the MetLife Stadium by helicopter as shown in her entrance. And then Lynch simply made her way to the main event of WrestleMania looking like she had been born for that very moment.
Ronda Rousey dropped both women with punches and kicks early before Flair took advantage of some separation to suplex Rousey into the ringside barrier. Rousey got back between the former friends before they attempted a double powerbomb on Rousey over the top rope. Rousey held on to Charlotte’s arm in an armbar attempt before Lynch dropkicked an upside-down Rousey in the back leading to a scary landing for Raw’s Champion on the floor.
The New Jersey crowd was quiet as the three women continued their battle. The length of the WrestleMania shows of recent years taking their toll on the enthusiasm that can still be mustered. The toll had also been taken on Michael Cole’s voice as he increasingly croaked his way through the main event.
Rousey then attempted a form of armbar on both Lynch and Flair at the same time. That resulted in the two women lifting Rousey and dropping her to the mat three times in a row. The crowd came to life as Rousey rolled through a suplex attempt allowing Lynch to lock in the Disarm-her submission hold. Charlotte interjected herself once more nailing an incredible Spanish fly on Lynch from the top rope.
Flair locked in the Figure Eight leg-lock on Rousey with Lynch breaking that submission attempt up with a flying leg drop to Flair. With a triple threat match being no disqualification Becky Lynch then brought a table into the ring.
After Rousey told the New Jersey crowd that “Tables are for b*tches” she tipped it up indicating that she had no use or no need for it. Flair, on the other hand, could see a use, as she then ominously set up the table in the corner. Charlotte then attempted a double spear on her opponents who both hip tossed Flair into the table. The table dented rather than broke proving the adage that a blown table spot is worse than no table spot.
Out of absolutely nowhere Lynch countered Rousey’s attempt at Piper’s Pit and pinned Rousey to win the match and both WWE Women’s Titles. The crowd in the MetLife Stadium was as stunned as they were delighted as Rousey looked shocked.
And this is where the match, unfortunately, falls down – Rousey’s shoulders weren’t down for the pin. Not even close. The finish itself was dubious in its construct. While victories ‘out of nowhere’ keep matches interesting and give them a competitive edge. After an intense, heated feud culminating in two championships being on the line, in the main event of WrestleMania. A more decisive win could have had a much bigger impact.
As it is, this match is historic but not legendary. The three women all deserve immense credit for taking that responsibility on their shoulders and putting on a very respectable showing. Whether Rousey returns to WWE remains to be seen but the world has certainly not seen the last of women in main events at WrestleMania.
13. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle – WrestleMania XIX – WWE Championship – 2003
Brock Lesnar’s rookie year in WWE is as close to a perfect year of story-telling as your likely to see in wrestling.
A monster tearing through the competition with the master manipulator and mouth of the outfit Paul Heyman by his side. Lesnar debuted the night after WrestleMania X8 on Raw and was simply unstoppable.
A King Of The Ring victory came in June, but there was no crown and sceptre for this winner. Instead, Lesnar’s reward was a fast track to the main event of SummerSlam 2002 where he faced The Rock for the WWE Undisputed Championship.
Lesnar won – becoming the youngest WWE Champion of all time at 25 years and 44 days, a record that still stands. Undefeated, Lesnar was becoming a favourite of the WWE audience – a no-nonsense ass-kicker who could beat anyone. What’s not to like?
The 500-pound Big Show lay in wait for Lesnar at the 2002 Survivor Series and with him, a nasty surprise for the champion. Paul Heyman turned his back on Lesnar, screwing him out of the title and handing Big Show his second reign as WWE Champion. By now Lesnar was beloved by the WWE audience and was soon back on his dominant track. Lesnar entered the 2003 Royal Rumble match at number 29. He eliminated four men including The Undertaker as he won the match and booked his place in WrestleMania’s main event.
Kurt Angle entered his first and only WrestleMania main event as WWE Champion. At Armageddon in December 2002 Angle defeated Big Show to win the title. Angle then revealed that he had a manager of his own and introduced none other than Paul Heyman. With Heyman now by side Angle’s side, he provided the Olympic gold medallist with some protection to ensure Angle kept his title. Team Angle was then introduced comprising Charlie Haas and Brock Lesnar’s college teammate Shelton Benjamin.
At No Way Out in February 2003, a six-man tag team was due to take place pitting Kurt and Team Angle against Lesnar, Chris Benoit, and Edge. An attack on Edge earlier in the night turned that into a handicap match. In reality, Edge required serious neck surgery that left him out of action for over a year. Benoit and Lesnar overcame the three-man team picking up the victory and giving Lesnar the momentum as WrestleMania came into sight.
The WrestleMania match between Angle and Lesnar was then put in serious jeopardy. Angle had been dealing with serious neck issues and the match was close to being called off. Angle has since inferred that Benoit was his potential replacement to face Lensar at WrestleMania XIX.
Kurt Angle powered through and decided that the match should take place. So at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington in front of over 54,000 people, an NCAA Division One Heavyweight Champion met an Olympic gold medallist in the main event of WrestleMania. Michael Cole and Tazz were on the call for the first WrestleMania main event since the brand split with SmackDown taking the honours. Even in 2003 by the time the main event came around Cole’s voice was hoarse, to say the least.
The two men began by trading wrestling holds as should be expected. Both men were smooth and crisp, which given the state of Angle’s neck is somewhat miraculous. Angle took a few shots at Lesnar’s taped ribs before hitting a nasty German suplex that sent Lesnar into the top turnbuckle. Lesnar then showcased his power as he threw Angle around the ring. A reminder of a time when Lesnar had more than two recognised moves in his arsenal. An F5 attempt brought the crowd to their feet as in 2003 it was a move that beat people after just one, Angle escaped though, and reversed into an ankle lock. Angle then hit a release German suplex that turned Lesnar inside out; the fans in Seattle were suitably impressed at the show of strength.
Angle hit an Angle Slam only for Lesnar to kick out. Lesnar soon followed up with an F5 and at the last possible moment Angle barely, just barely got his shoulder up before three. The crowd went nuts as Michael Cole exclaimed that nobody had ever kicked out of the F5 before. Lesnar survived another ankle lock from Angle before taking the champion down with the second F5 of the match. Lesnar pinned Angle immediately and won the WWE Title…if only.
What happened next is the reason that this match isn’t approximately ten places higher on this list. More importantly, what happened next is the move that made Kurt Angle think Brock Lesnar was dead. Lesnar climbed to the top rope and attempted a shooting star press.
As is well documented, Lesnar had no problem hitting the move. Footage even exists of the 295-pound Lesnar nailing the move flawlessly on a dark match from Raw. But on the ‘Grandest Stage of Them All’ it did not go to plan.
Brock Lesnar took flight, under rotating as his massive frame flipped in midair. This caused Lesnar to crash into the mat head-first. A very scary scene.
If Lesnar hits the move as planned and defeats Angle then it’s a WrestleMania moment that lives forever in highlight reels for decades to come. As Jim Ross always said – it’s called high risk for a reason. For Lesnar, that risk did not pay off. Angle covered Lesnar – noting years later that he told Lesnar that he had to kick out. Lesnar did and mustered the strength to hit one third and final F5. Lesnar covered Angle and became a two-time WWE Champion.
There was no grand celebration after the match. Lesnar struggled to his feet to shake hands with Angle and embrace the former champion. The two warriors had fought a war and just barely escaped intact.
12. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XIV – WWF Championship – 1998
WrestleMania XIV in 1998 marked a sea-change for the then World Wrestling Federation. Months before the ‘Montreal Screwjob’ changed the face of professional wrestling. With WWF’s biggest star Bret Hart now in WCW, Shawn Michaels maneuvered his way back to the top as WWF Champion. In the background, however, one man had been making waves in the company since he told everyone exactly what Austin 3:16 meant – the Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Another major shift was brewing as well. Vince McMahon had stepped out from behind the announce desk and was now recognised as the owner and Chairman of WWF on television. His ‘Bret screwed Bret’ interview did nothing to endear him to the WWF fans. McMahon also appeared to take issue with Austin and his ‘Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave’ attitude.
This was evident when McMahon made the momentous announcement that he was bringing ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson to WrestleMania. In a much-hyped segment on Raw, McMahon introduced Tyson into a WWF ring on the January 19th, 1998 edition of the WWF’s flagship show. One night after Austin went through twenty-nine other men to win the 1998 Royal Rumble and claim a WWF Championship match at WrestleMania.
Tyson came to the ring surrounded by flunkies and bouncers as a proud Vince McMahon welcomed him into a WWF ring. Tyson told the world his favourite wrestlers growing up were Bruno Sammartino and Nikolai Volkoff before McMahon tried to announce Tyson’s role at WrestleMania.
Business picked up as the glass shattered and Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring. A flock of WWF officials followed Austin to make sure order was maintained for McMahon’s big announcement. Austin let Tyson know in no uncertain terms that the boxing great was now standing in Stone Cold’s ring and Stone Cold did not like it. Austin offered Tyson his two-fingered sign language before Tyson shoved Austin. And all hell then broke loose.
Stone Cold was pinned down by officials trying to drag him from the ring while Tyson didn’t push too hard to get his hands on Austin. McMahon screamed in Austin’s face “you ruined it, you ruined it.” His disdain for Stone Cold grew more palpable by the week.
The WWF Champion Shawn Michaels retained his title at the 1998 Royal Rumble in the match that brought his career to a halt. A casket match against The Undertaker saw Michaels slammed onto the casket causing a serious back injury. The Heartbreak Kid continued causing mayhem on-screen with his DX partners Triple H and Chyna but Michaels did not compete again until WrestleMania.
Mike Tyson’s role at WrestleMania was eventually announced as that of special enforcer for the WWF Championship match. Capitalising on the disrespect shown from Austin, Michaels shockingly recruited ‘The Baddest Man On The Planet’ to DX. As WrestleMania XIV rolled into the Fleet Center in Boston, the deck was firmly stacked against the challenger.
Tyson entered the arena first showing the Boston crowd some of the widest crotch chops known to man. Austin’s music then hit and the crowd went absolutely wild, they came for Austin and they want him as their champion. Before Michaels entered the arena, he was seen backstage with Triple H and Chyna. As he waited for his music, he shouted into the camera ‘This one’s for you Earl’ in reference to Earl Hebner, WWF’s senior official who had taken unwell the night before. The DX Band played Michaels and his cohort to the ring.
The crowd was deafening as they chanted for Austin while the Texas Rattlesnake stood alone, in stark contrast to the four members of DX present in and around the ring.
After Michaels initially avoided Austin’s advances, the Rattlesnake struck, going as far to backdrop Michaels over the top rope directly onto Triple H. Probably not ideal for Michaels’ injured back but the crowd lapped it up. Triple H took exception and attacked Austin in full view of the referee. Rather than think about disqualification, referee Mike Chioda sent Triple H and Chyna packing. Four on one was now two on one, better odds for Austin to survive.
The match then slowed after such a frenetic opening. Michaels in particular moved at an incredible pace in spite of his back. Michaels worked on Austin’s leg, repeatedly slamming it into the ring post. The pain of his back injury was now firmly etched onto the champion’s face. Michaels then locked in a sleeper hold on Austin. As Stone Cold tried to escape by slamming Michaels into the turnbuckle, both men crashed into the referee. Tyson stalked ringside as the match continued without an official.
It was now time for Michaels to tune up the band for a little Sweet Chin Music. Austin managed to duck the boot of Michaels before attempting a Stunner. Michaels pushed Austin into the ropes with Stone Cold rebounding into another superkick attempt. This time Austin caught Michaels’ boot, spinning him around and nailing the Stunner. Austin covered Michaels as Tyson got into the ring and made a lively three count as the crowd erupted in Boston. Jim Ross on commentary also erupted with his famous “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” line.
Tyson raised Austin’s hand, in return Austin gave Tyson a t-shirt to replace the DX one ‘Iron’ Mike was still wearing. As the new champion and Tyson shared a beer, a confused Michaels confronted Tyson for his betrayal. Tyson dropped the former champion with a right hand and the crowd went wild once more.
This marked Michael’s last match in the WWF for over four years as he dealt with his back issues. A special mention also goes to the ‘winged eagle’ title belt that had been a mainstay in WWF from the late eighties until now. Austin celebrated with that belt but by the next night on Raw, Austin sported the new ‘big eagle’ that represented the WWF Championship until 2002.
As for the new champion, JR summed it up best – “The Austin era has begun.”
11. The Rock vs. John Cena – WrestleMania XXVIII– 2012
The original once-in-a-lifetime match.
The Rock returned to WWE in 2011 as the host of that year’s WrestleMania. Further – much further up this list we covered what happened at WrestleMania 27. John Cena fought The Miz for the WWE Championship in the main event. The match ended in a double count-out and was declared a draw.
As the host of WrestleMania, The Rock wasn’t going to let things end like that. He restarted the match with no disqualifications and no count-outs. Rock then delivered a Rock Bottom to Cena that allowed The Miz to retain his title.
Not a classic WrestleMania moment by any means but it did lead to this, a new generation’s icon vs. icon.
The night after that match at WrestleMania on the 4th of April edition on Raw, John Cena wanted answers from The Rock. Cena called The Rock to the ring and The Great One obliged. The two men verbally sparred as only they could and then Cena issued the challenge for a match. The Rock one-upped that challenge and offered to face Cena in one year at the main event of WrestleMania 28 in Miami. The crowd in Atlanta was somewhat muted at that announcement as they wanted to witness some action there and then. Nevertheless, Cena and The Rock shook on it and the WrestleMania event for the first time ever was set one year in advance.
To send the crowd home happy, one group of men made their way to the ring to attack Cena and The Rock. Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel collectively known as The Corre attempted to hijack the moment. And of course, Rock and Cena despatched them, hitting all their signature moves to give the Atlanta fans something to cheer.
As The Rock returned to his day job in Hollywood, John Cena became WWE Champion by defeating The Miz on May 1st at Extreme Rules. After that match and the pay-per-view was off the air John Cena made an announcement to the live crowd. In a surreal scene, Cena announced to the crowd that Osama Bin Laden had been “captured and compromised to a permanent end.”
The next night on Raw live in Miami was The Rock’s return as he celebrated his birthday as only The Rock could. This involved a birthday party with several superstars dressed as some of The Rock’s movie characters. WWE Hall Of Famer The Great Khali donned a pink tutu to play his part as The Tooth Fairy. Thankfully The Rock’s old Nation Of Domination comrade Ron Simmons was in attendance to sum up the scene in one word.
Later at the birthday bash, John Cena turned up with his WWE Championship. Cena told Rock that his gift for The Rock’s birthday was to hold on to that title until WrestleMania and defend it in their main event match. This was immediately after The Rock planted a big kiss on Mae Young but let’s gloss over that.
Cena lost the WWE Championship in one of the most famous title matches of all time at Money In The Bank in July. In front of a boiling hot crowd in Chicago, Cena was beaten by CM Punk who then walked out of the company as champion. Punk soon returned and subsequently lost the title to Alberto Del Rio. Cena attempted to reclaim the belt at Vengeance in October 2011 but was thwarted by the team of R-Truth and The Miz.
The two men had claimed a conspiracy had been keeping them held down in WWE and they were taking no prisoners in an attempt to stop it. Cena originally challenged the pair to a match at the 2011 Survivor Series with Zack Ryder as his partner. After the ‘Awesome Truth’ took out Ryder, Cena had to look somewhere unlikely for help. He asked The Rock to team up with him only a few months before their WrestleMania showdown.
The Rock accepted Cena’s offer and took part in his first match in over seven and a half years in the main event of Survivor Series. Rock and Cena were victorious after The Rock felled Miz with a People’s Elbow. After the match Rock hit Cena with a Rock Bottom to the delight of the crowd in Madison Square Garden.
As WrestleMania approached the trash talk between the two men ramped up once again. There was absolutely no doubt who had the upper hand in those stakes going into what was billed as the biggest match of all time. The Rock, known for his cool, calm demeanour was left in the dust by Cena. It was a first-round knockout and Cena masterfully took the digs and insults from The Rock and turned them around on The Great One. Nobody before had ever measured up to The Rock in the way Cena did on the microphone. But matches are not won or lost on the microphone and the two men had to meet in the ring at WrestleMania.
The crowd in Miami was only going to support one man and that was the hometown hero Dwayne Johnson. John Cena was used to hostile crowds – CM Punk in Chicago, RVD in the Hammerstein Ballroom – and it was to be no different in the Miami Gardens.
Before the match, each man had a rapper representing them – further cementing WrestleMania as a true entertainment spectacle. Cena had Machine Gun Kelly, The Rock had Florida’s own Flo Rida. Normally musical performances at WrestleMania are more miss than hit but this worked. There was a purpose to it and it only heightened the anticipation of the match and the ovation The Rock was going to receive. There was a big fight feel in Miami and this was the biggest fight of them all.
Mike Chioda rang the bell and the crowd was already thunderously loud. Both men started by testing their strength, shoving each other to the ground from the lockup position. Rock and Cena traded the advantage with even a side headlock eliciting chants from the fans in attendance.
The Rock set up Cena for a People’s Elbow as everyone in the stadium rose to their feet. Cena avoided disaster and hit a five-knuckle shuffle on The Rock. An Attitude Adjustment followed and The Rock managed to barely escape with only a two count. Miami breathed a sigh of relief. Jerry Lawler added “This is so good” on commentary and he’s not wrong. Over 78,000 fans are screaming for The People’s Champion to get to his feet. Cena gets caught out of nowhere with a Rock Bottom and this time Cena kicks out at two to keep the match going.
Cena locked in the STF and the match looked to be heading to its conclusion. Mike Chioda raised The Rock’s hand once, twice, and on the third time The Great One, with Miami willing him on kept it in the air, before he clawed his way to the ropes. The Rock gained the upper hand and a spinebuster set Cena up once more for the most electrifying move in sports entertainment. The Rock hit it this time as the fans raised the decibel level once again. Cena kicked out as the two men threw everything at one another.
The Rock then uncharacteristically attempted a cross body from the top rope. Cena caught him in his trademark style rolling through and lifting The Rock onto his shoulders. Another Attitude Adjustment, another two count. John Cena then did what John Cena never did and let his emotions get the best of him. Cena played to the crowd and signaled he was about to hit The People’s Champ with his own version of the People’s Elbow. The conceit of Cena cost him. Big time.
With the crowd in an uproar, Cena rebounded off the ropes only to be caught in a Rock Bottom and this time there was no kick out. The Rock had beaten Cena. Miami rejoiced.
One year later, Cena rectified that by beating The Rock for the WWE Championship in their rematch. But there’s nothing like the first time and Cena and Rock’s first time was something very special.
10. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XII – WWF Championship – 1996
The Iron Man Match is upon us. One hour from the two biggest names from the New Generation squared off in a WrestleMania main event like no other.
1995 was a tumultuous year for Shawn Michaels. He began it by winning the Royal Rumble and with it, a shot at the WWF Title at WrestleMania XI. That match was not the main event and was overshadowed by Lawrence Taylor defeating Bam Bam Bigelow. The following night on Raw, Shawn’s bodyguard Sid put Michaels out of action for two months. HBK did win the Intercontinental Championship in July by defeating Jeff Jarrett. However, his reign as champion was curtailed after one night in Syracuse.
The story goes that Michaels was attacked by anywhere from one to a group of marines in a bar in Syracuse, New York. His injuries caused him to forfeit the Intercontinental Title in October, not the last time Michaels had to relinquish a championship. A match with Owen Hart in November was stopped after Michaels supposedly collapsed. In storylines, there was even talk of retirement for The Heartbreak Kid.
Bret Hart’s 1995 was hardly a banner year for The Hitman either. Having lost the WWF Championship at the 1994 Survivor Series to Bob Backlund after Bret’s brother Owen convinced their mother to throw in the towel for her son. Hart faced Backlund once again at WrestleMania XI in a match Hart has called “probably the worst pay-per-view match I’ve ever had.” A feud with Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and his associates saw Hart through most of the year before he found himself back in the title hunt at Survivor Series 1995. In a no disqualification match, Hart defeated Diesel to begin his third reign as champion.
Things for Michaels were improving significantly as 1996 rolled around. At a press conference, rather than announce his retirement, Michaels announced he was entering the 1996 Royal Rumble. Shawn Michaels entered the match at number eighteen and became only the second person after Hulk Hogan to win back-to-back Rumble matches. Michaels’ path to WrestleMania was threatened in February at In Your House 6. Since his hiatus, Owen Hart had taken credit for driving Michaels out of wrestling. The two men met in the Louisville Gardens with Michaels’ WrestleMania shot on the line. HBK overcame Hart defeating The Rocket to cement his WrestleMania place.
At the same event, Hart endured a tough test as he met former WWF Champion Diesel inside a steel cage. Hart won the bout after The Undertaker appeared through the ring dragging Diesel down beside him. With Big Daddy Cool subdued, Hart escaped over the top of the cage to victory. With the combatants now firmly in place, it was up to on-screen acting WWF President ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper to announce the stipulation for the match. An hour-long Iron Man match was set, the most falls within the hour takes the WWF Championship. No mention of what happens if the match is tied after that hour.
At WrestleMania XII, Howard Finkel announced before the match that Gorilla Monsoon was back in his official capacity as WWF President, useful to have someone in power close by in case anything contentious happened. Shawn Michaels zip-lined his way into the Anaheim crowd as they explode for the challenger. Vince McMahon on commentary is absolutely intoxicated by this entrance, to say the least. The champion entered next to a good reaction but the tide was turning in the WWF. As Bret said backstage before the match “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn.” The sun was setting on The Hitman’s title reign.
A clock is shown on the screen ensuring that we get a full hour of action and ‘Titan Time’ will not be in effect. Hart and Michaels begin in a very measured fashion as is to be expected, an hour is a long time. The first ten minutes brought mainly chin locks from Hart and arm holds from Michaels. When the action picked up from both men they’re quick and crisp in their movements. McMahon and Jerry Lawler on commentary contrast the styles noting Hart wants to slow down Michaels to prevent him from doing his “Mexican style” moves.
The match soon spilled to the outside and Hart was thrown into the ring post landing on Tony Chimel’s lap. Michaels aimed a superkick at Hart but The Hitman ducked and Michaels laid Chimel out with a vicious-looking kick. Back in the ring, Hart took control with another chin lock. The long stretches with the competitors in a hold being broken up by explosive action worked well and the fans reacted positively to what they saw.
For the next ten minutes, Michaels was firmly in control, wrestling the match that McMahon and Lawler expected Hart to be wrestling. Michaels zoned in on Hart’s shoulder, picking his body part to try and weaken it for the marathon match.
With 29 minutes left Hart hit the biggest move of the match so far, nailing Michaels with a piledriver. Hart can only lean back to cover Michaels which allows him to kick out at two. Lawler on commentary is incredulous at someone kicking out of a piledriver. With over half the match gone you wouldn’t know you had watched over thirty minutes of action if it wasn’t for the clock on the screen.
As the match reached the forty-minute mark Hart took control and the intensity ramped up. Hart sent Michaels flying over the top rope to the outside before bringing him back in the ring to attack HBK’s back.
The action picked up again as the time wound down. A frustrated Hart flew through the ropes onto Michaels on the outside. Hart hit a big German suplex for a near fall. Hart then began locking in holds, again trying to wear Michaels out once and for all but HBK will not quit.
With less than four minutes left and both men exhausted in the ring, Michaels nips up in trademark fashion getting his fourth or fifth wind right when it mattered most. Michaels hit the big elbow drop but could only muster a two count on Hart. A moonsault to a standing Hart with less than two minutes left achieved the same.
With 40 seconds left on the clock, Michaels flew through the air once more only to be caught by Hart and locked in the Sharpshooter. The California crowd rose to their feet as it’s now or never for one man to gain the decisive fall. Michaels can’t move an inch towards the ropes to break the hold so instead grit his teeth and survived with the bell ringing to signal that time had expired.
With the match over and seemingly a draw Hart grabbed his title belt and made his way up the aisle. Gorilla Monsoon entered the ring immediately and declared the match must restart under sudden death rules. A seriously vexed Hart returned to the ring and argued with Monsoon but overtime was underway.
Hart went straight to the back of Michaels once more, potentially softening up the challenger for another Sharpshooter attempt. Hart whipped Michaels towards the turnbuckle but Michaels caught himself on the ropes and leaped over Hart before hitting the superkick out of nowhere. Both men went down with Michaels unable to capitalise. Crucially Michaels then got to his feet moments before Bret Hart. Michaels briefly tuned up the band and floored Hart with the Sweet Chin Music. This time Michaels hooked the leg and earned the one and only fall of the match. One-Nil to the Heartbreak Kid.
The boyhood dream had come true.
9. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XV – WWF Championship – 1999
The first of the WrestleMania trilogy of matches between these two icons of the WWE took place in 1999. The Rock as Vince McMahon’s hand-picked Corporate Champion, Steve Austin the beloved anti-hero. This match epitomised Austin vs. McMahon.
The WWF Chairman had spent most of 1998 trying to prise the WWF Championship from Austin. Eventually using The Undertaker and Kane to do his bidding, McMahon succeeded in September. Undertaker and Kane pinned Austin simultaneously in a triple threat match. The next month Austin was the special referee in a singles match between the two brothers to crown a new champion. Austin did not want to play along with McMahon’s games and counted both men down declaring himself the winner of the match. Consequently, McMahon fired Austin.
The next night on Raw, Austin turned up on the hunt for McMahon. Literally, on the hunt – Austin was in camouflage gear and had brought his guns with him. After capturing McMahon and taking him to the ring, Austin revealed his ‘Bang 3:16’ toy gun, and ‘McMahon 3:16’ was born – but it meant something very different from whipping ass.
Austin also gave McMahon a sheet of paper, which was Stone Cold’s new 5-year contract with the company. The contract did read McMahon – but it read Shane McMahon. Shane had signed Austin to a new deal after being cast aside and demoted to a referee’s position by Vince.
Without a champion, a one-night ‘Deadly Game’ tournament was set for Survivor Series 1998. McMahon’s handpicked champion appeared to be Mankind who was getting an easy run to the finals.
In one semi-final, that easy run was somewhat stopped when Mankind came up against Austin. Austin had the match won but the referee had been wiped out. Shane McMahon in his referee stripes ran to the ring and counted one, two…before stopping and giving Austin his own one-fingered salute. The corporate stooges Brisco and Patterson attacked Austin with a chair and Mankind won the match.
In the other half of the draw, The Rock had been dealing with interference in his matches as well. After beating corporate bodyguard Big Boss Man in three seconds in round one, Boss Man appeared to want revenge. In The Rock’s next match with Ken Shamrock, Boss Man threw his nightstick, apparently to Shamrock, but The Rock plucked it out of the air before using it on ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man.’
In Rock’s semi-final, he won by disqualification after Kane chokeslammed him in an attempt to knock The Undertaker out of the tournament. The final was now down to People’s Champ The Rock and Corporate-sponsored Mankind – this being the Survivor Series, nothing could possibly go awry.
In an exact replica of the infamous ‘Montreal Screwjob’ from the year prior, The Rock locked in the Sharpshooter on Mankind and Vince McMahon called for the bell to be rung. Inside the ring, Mankind asked for an explanation but was beat down by The Rock. The new Corporate Champion celebrated in the ring with the reunited McMahons. The plan to keep the title out of Austin’s grasp had succeeded.
As The Rock spent the next few months engaged in a bloody and well-documented feud with Mankind. Austin’s next opportunity to get near the WWF Title came at the 1999 Royal Rumble. Although what chance Austin did have was severely diminished as McMahon decreed Austin would enter the match at number one. What McMahon didn’t realise was that he was also going to enter the Royal Rumble at number two. McMahon promised Austin that he had no chance in hell of winning the match and going to WrestleMania.
Shockingly, McMahon was right. Vince McMahon managed to lure Austin through the Arrowhead Pond where a trap was set with the Corporation waiting to beat down Stone Cold. Austin was taken away in an ambulance only to be seen returning later driving the ambulance back to the arena. Stone Cold rejoined the match and eventually, it was back to Austin and McMahon, now the final two. The Rock made his way to the ring to distract Austin, allowing Vince McMahon to eliminate the Texas Rattlesnake and win the Rumble.
The next night on Raw, McMahon forfeited his title shot against The Rock for WrestleMania, saying he wanted to pick The Rock’s opponent instead. WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels then told McMahon if he forfeited the WrestleMania match it deferred to the Rumble runner-up, in this case, Austin. McMahon did not like that. Sensing an opportunity, Austin challenged McMahon to a match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in February. If Austin won then he’d go to WrestleMania, if McMahon won, he wouldn’t, and it would be inside a solid steel cage.
Austin relished his chance to get his hands on McMahon without any interference from The Corporation. Stone Cold attacked McMahon before the match even began sending him off the side of the cage through the announce table at ringside. Austin was declared the winner by forfeit as McMahon was stretchered away.
Stone Cold refused that outcome and dragged McMahon into the ring. Austin had the match won, nearly escaping the cage to the floor when McMahon offered a two-finger salute that goaded Austin back into the ring. Paul Wight then emerged through the ring making his WWF debut. The giant grabbed Austin and threw him into the side of the cage. Austin held on as the cage broke free, swinging out over the floor. Stone Cold jumped down and won via escape. For the second year in a row, Stone Cold Steve Austin was going to the main event of WrestleMania.
On the go-home Raw before WrestleMania XV, Stone Cold had one last chance to embarrass McMahon and boy, did he take it. With Vince, Shane, and The Rock holding court in the ring, one of the most memorable moments in WWF history occurred.
Stone Cold entered the Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York with another kind of beverage on his mind. Austin arrived in a beer truck, thankfully not tearing down the Titan Tron screen as he drove it to the ring. The beer bath that followed soaked The Corporation with Vince McMahon even trying to front crawl his way out of the ring.
As WrestleMania rolled around in Philadelphia, The Corporation was banned – apart from Vince McMahon –from ringside for the main event by WWF Commissioner, Shawn Michaels. Mankind defeated Paul Wight earlier in the night to have the chance to referee the main event. However after Wight took him out after the match, Mankind did not appear for the start of the main event. The crowd came alive for Austin as he made his entrance without his trademark vest. The match kicked off at a frenetic pace as the Philly crowd left no one in any doubt who they were cheering for. This was a crowd that had come to see Austin reclaim his title.
Austin and Rock brawled through the crowd and in the entranceway spending a good portion of the match outside the ring. In this sense, it was a quintessentially ‘Attitude Era’ WrestleMania main event. As the match wore on, the referee suffered a Rock Bottom and McMahon made his way to the ring trying to ensure the title stayed on his champion. After McMahon took out another official Mankind returned to take the Chairman out of the match.
One Stunner later and Mankind counted to three crowing Austin as WWF Champion for the second year in a row.
8. John Cena vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 22 – WWE Championship – 2006
Triple H earned his way into the main event of WrestleMania for the fifth time in his career by winning the ‘Road To WrestleMania’ tournament on Raw to determine the red brand’s number one contender for the WWE Title.
An eight-man tournament saw Triple H defeat former Evolution teammate Ric Flair in the first round. In the semi-final, Triple H and Big Show went to a double count-out so both men progressed making the final a triple threat match. Joining them was Rob Van Dam who had beaten Chris Masters in the other semi-final. Triple H won the tournament by hitting RVD with a Pedigree.
John Cena entered as Raw’s WWE Champion after a very bumpy start to 2006. Cena originally won the title at WrestleMania 21 from JBL. Back then Cena represented SmackDown but in a shock first draft pick for Raw when the brands shuffled their packs, Cena was moved over to the Monday night show.
Cena held the title for 280 days until the New Year’s Revolution pay-per-view on the 8th of January 2006. At that event, Cena defended the title in an Elimination Chamber match against Carlito, Chris Masters, Shawn Michaels, Kane, and Kurt Angle. Cena retained but after the match, as Cena lay bloody on the mat Vince McMahon appeared demanding the Chamber be raised. McMahon then announced that Edge was cashing in his Money In The Bank privilege. This was the first time this had ever happened so the announcement was needed to keep the crowd in their seats for the extra match. Edge made short work of a battered Cena and won the WWE Championship.
Cena was granted his re-match just three weeks later at the Royal Rumble. After Cena entered spectacularly on something resembling a spaceship, it became fairly apparent that Cena was going to reclaim the title. And so it came to pass, Cena made Edge tap out with the STFU and was WWE Champion once again.
Early 2006 was a strange time in Triple H’s career. Unusually for him, he had not held a title since losing the main event of WrestleMania 21 to Batista. The Game spent the autumn having a series of matches with Ric Flair as the last gasps of Evolution died out. Triple H was still a villain but without a beloved star to go up against the fans no longer hated Triple H the way they used to.
With the preamble out of the way, there was nothing left but for the two men to meet in the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Triple H entered with a Conan The Barbarian-themed throne, calling himself ‘The King Of Kings’ for the first time. As Jim Ross pointed out on commentary Triple H had lost in the last two WrestleMania main events, he needed a win.
John Cena came to the ring with a gangster-inspired entrance which became famous in later years due to CM Punk’s cameo appearance. Triple H began the match by outwrestling Cena, tying him up in holds before pushing him away as he toyed with the champion. The Game threw Cena to the outside and made the mistake of turning his back on the champion. This allowed Cena to get back in the ring and brawl with The Game.
After an eye poke, Triple H gained control once more as he methodically picked apart Cena. The Game’s trademark facebuster into his knee was followed by a huge lariat for a near fall. The Cerebral Assassin locked in a sleeper hold, as he ground Cena to a standstill. Cena eventually powered out before he landed a lariat of his own.
Cena began his shoulder tackle sequence followed by the sit-out side suplex. The champion attempted a five-knuckle shuffle but Triple H caught him with a massive ‘Double A’ spinebuster that got a two count for the challenger. John Cena stuck to what he knows and hit the shoulder tackles again, another suplex, and this time hit the five-knuckle shuffle. Cena locked in the STFU and it looked as if that was it for The Game but he clawed his way to the ropes to break the hold.
Cena hoisted Triple H up for an FU but The Game countered pushing Cena into the referee in the corner. Triple H then low-blowed both men as he had bad intentions on his mind. The loudest reaction came when Triple H mocked Cena’s ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt before following it up with a DX crotch chop for good measure. The Chicago crowd saw Shawn Michaels do the same thing earlier in the night. A tantalising tease of what might be to come.
But for now, Triple H hunted for his most trusted partner in the ring – his sledgehammer. The Game nailed Cena in the head with the hammer, flooring the champion. A dazed referee came around just in time to count to two before Cena incredibly kicked out. The Chicago fans were in an uproar.
Triple H went for the Pedigree but Cena backdropped his way out of it. An FU from Cena only got another near fall on Triple H. The crowd hit fever pitch as Cena looked stunned. Triple H tried another Pedigree attempt but this time Cena slipped out going straight into the STFU. With The Game agonisingly close to the ropes, Cena wrapped his other arm around the challenger and increased the pressure, Triple H had no choice but to tap out.
John Cena’s first WrestleMania main event ended in triumph. Triple H had now lost three in a row.
7. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 23 – WWE Championship – 2007
The second half of John Cena’s brace of matches against DX came one year after the first. If rumours from the time are to be believed, Triple H was set to face Cena in 2007 in a rematch. A serious injury for The Game put paid to that.
WrestleMania 23 saw Shawn Michaels main event WrestleMania for the fourth time in his career – the second entering to his DX music. Cena entered his second WrestleMania main event in a row. For the first time ever, two men entered the WrestleMania main event as the reigning World Tag Team Champions.
Michaels made it to this main event by winning a triple threat match between himself, Edge, and Randy Orton on the 5th of February edition of Raw. Michaels and DX partner Triple H had been feuding with Edge and Orton – Rated-RKO – throughout the latter half of 2006. Early in January 2007 Triple H suffered a second quadriceps tear and required surgery. This left Michaels alone at the mercy of Edge and Orton for several weeks.
WWE Champion John Cena stepped in and he and Michaels won the World Tag Team Titles from Rated-RKO the week before Michaels became number one contender to Cena’s title.
At No Way Out 2007 Cena and Michaels teamed up to face another unlikely combination. On SmackDown the title match for WrestleMania was set to be The Undertaker vs. Batista. These two men combined to face Cena and Michaels in the main event. The Tag Team Champions came out on top after Batista turned on The Undertaker, leaving him at the mercy of Cena and Michaels.
On the Raw six days before WrestleMania, the four men met once again. This time The Undertaker walked out on World Champion Batista. Cena persuaded Michaels to hit a double five-knuckle shuffle on The Animal and HBK obliged. Immediately after, Shawn Michaels landed Sweet Chin Music squarely on the chin of Cena. The crowd in Chicago exploded! Michaels watched as Batista crawled across the mat to pin his tag-team partner.
At WrestleMania in Ford Field, Detroit, Shawn Michaels entered the stadium first. Cena followed driving a Ford Mustang through WrestleMania 23 emblazoned glass and the Champ was indeed here. A typically mixed reaction is an extremely generous term for what greeted Cena in Detroit, the crowd was firmly behind HBK. Michaels offered a handshake that Cena probably wisely refused. The Heartbreak Kid slapped Cena squarely in the face instead and this match was on.
Michaels dominated the early going, out wrestling Cena and talking trash to the champion the entire time. Cena stopped the momentum with a vicious clothesline much to the crowd’s chagrin. Michaels retook the initiative sending Cena to the outside. HBK joined him by way of a springboard moonsault onto Cena who was standing at the announce desk. Back in the ring, Michaels chose Cena’s leg to focus on, trying to take away the champion’s base.
Michaels then ran at Cena in the corner, as Cena ducked out of the way, HBK’s head hit the ring post causing him to bleed. Cena gained the upper hand and hit Michaels with the five knuckle shuffle. The challenger escaped the FU attempt before nailing referee Mike Chioda with a superkick – accidentally of course.
With the official out of commission it was very much anything goes. Michaels took advantage, dropping Cena with a nasty-looking piledriver on the steel steps at ringside. That was enough to cause a laceration on the back of Cena’s head. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary were earning every bit of their WWE Hall Of Fame induction from the night before calling this action.
A new referee entered the fray as the two men stood their ground throwing punches at one another. The Detroit fans growing louder with each one. Michaels sent Cena off the ropes and attempted a leapfrog, Cena caught HBK in mid-air, finally hitting an FU. Every fan was on their feet and some cheers for Cena could be heard if you listened closely enough. The challenger’s kick out at two garnered even more.
An incredible sequence followed as Michaels attempted a crossbody from the top rope. Cena caught Michaels and rolled through into another FU attempt, although this time Michaels landed on his feet. HBK then went for the superkick but Cena ducked and picked Michaels’ ankle for an STFU attempt. Michaels was able to roll through that and roll Cena up for a close two count. The crowd was roaring its approval at the action in the ring.
Michaels missed an enziguri and this time Cena trapped him in the submission hold. The crowd willed Michaels to the ropes, and just as it looked as if HBK had given all he could, one last push got him there. The noise was deafening as referee Jack Doan manhandled Cena to get him to break the hold.
That distraction from the referee let Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on Cena. Michaels crawled on his stomach to reach the champion and cover him, the delay gave Cena enough time to get his shoulder up at two.
As both gladiators used each other to lean on as they slowly rose from the canvas, Cena went for another FU, Michaels slithered out only to be caught on the ground in the STFU. This time Cena wasn’t letting Michaels go anywhere. Cena pulled back on the chin of Michaels as HBK clawed at Cena’s hands to no avail. Michaels tapped out and Cena retained his WWE Championship.
A classic. Incredibly the two men bettered this just three weeks later in a near-hour-long contest on Raw.
6. The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles – WrestleMania 36 – Boneyard Match – 2020
This is going to be contentious. A cinematic match as one of the top WrestleMania main events of all time. About as far removed from the Iron Man wrestling clinic in 1996 as you can get. This was not a wrestling match but it was a WrestleMania main event. WrestleMania much like The Rock in recent years has even dropped the ‘sports’ from ‘sports entertainment.’ As far as pure entertainment goes, you’d have to go a long way to beat this.
The issue between The Undertaker and Styles began in Saudi Arabia of all places. The Super ShowDown event in Riyadh took place on February 27th – only two weeks before WWE were forced to abandon crowds at their shows due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announced for that event was a gauntlet match for the Tuwaiq Mountain Trophy. Bobby Lashley, Andrade, R-Truth, Erick Rowan, AJ Styles, and Rey Mysterio were announced as the competitors in the match. After a hard-fought battle by R-Truth which saw him eliminate Lashley, Andrade, and Rowan, Truth was undone by The Phenomenal One.
As Styles waited for the last combatant Rey Mysterio to come to the ring, footage was abruptly shown backstage of Styles’ lackeys Gallows and Anderson attacking Mysterio. Styles demanded the referee count Mysterio out of the match. With the referee counting the audience were shown the backstage area once more. This time Gallows and Anderson had been laid out by The Undertaker.
The Undertaker then made his renowned entrance as he took Mysterio’s place in the match. One chokeslam later and The Undertaker had defeated Styles. But this was far from over.
The next night on Raw, Styles mocked The Undertaker for still competing at his age. Over the next few weeks, Styles tore Taker to shreds on the microphone, calling him by his real name and even bringing up his wife, former WWE Superstar Michelle McCool. Styles was making this as personal as he could.
At the Elimination Chamber event in early March Styles faced Aleister Black in a no disqualification match. Once again Gallows and Anderson got involved helping their ex-Bullet Club leader to apparent victory. The more things change…
The lights cut out and when they came back on the Deadman was standing in the middle of the ring. After dealing with Gallows and Anderson, The Undertaker gave Styles another chokeslam and left him to be finished off by Black. Undertaker then vanished as soon as he had arrived.
The contract signing for their WrestleMania match took place on the 16th of March edition of Raw. This episode goes down in history as the first of the pandemic era in front of no fans. With the ‘prevailing circumstances’ preventing an audience from attending, the show emanated from an empty Performance Center.
Undertaker took exception to no contract being there to sign when he made his way to the ring. Backstage Styles was shown with the contract for WrestleMania, he signed it before forcing Gallows and Anderson to take it to the ring for The Undertaker to sign. Predictably Undertaker decimated the Good Brothers before signing on the dotted line.
The following week on Raw, after Styles showed a video of The Undertaker and Michelle McCool appealing to save tigers, Styles then promised to bring back the Deadman. To do that, Styles issued the challenge to make the match at WrestleMania a Boneyard match.
On the last Raw before WrestleMania The Undertaker answered Styles, bringing back some of his ‘American Badass’ charm and personality. Undertaker gave one of the best promos of his career as he offered Styles the chance to try him. At WrestleMania, The Undertaker was going to make AJ Styles famous.
Night one of the most surreal WrestleManias in history was headlined by The Undertaker and Styles. Rather than a wrestling match, the two men starred in a movie that crossed genres – horror, action, western – as Styles and Taker, along with Gallows and Anderson in supporting roles provided their own soundtrack for a unique main event.
Styles arrived at the undisclosed location for the fight in a coffin, having traveled in the back of a hearse. Not long after that, the distinctive sound of a motorcycle could be heard signalling that the Deadman was on his way.
Styles faced up to Taker and clearly hadn’t learned his lesson as he referred to The Undertaker’s wife and called the Phenom ‘old’ repeatedly. Undertaker took his time, stalking Styles. Taker got his hands on the Phenomenal one and tried dragging him towards a grave that had already been dug but Styles escaped.
Undertaker then put his arm through the hearse window as he aimed for Styles’ head. He then slammed AJ through the windscreen of the car, running his mouth at Styles the entire time. Styles gained control by throwing a handful of dirt in Undertaker’s eyes before kicking him with a low blow. The two men brawled towards the grave and Undertaker managed to drop AJ into it. A familiar voice then shouted at The Undertaker, they were not alone.
Gallows and Anderson made their presence known and as The Undertaker, looking the last gunslinger in town headed in their direction, another surprise awaited. Druids emerged from the building behind The Good Brothers and encircled Taker. Undertaker fought them off before Gallows and Anderson attacked. Undertaker cracked both men with a shovel before Styles reappeared smashing a concrete block on the back of the Deadman.
Styles then tackled Undertaker as both men crashed through a fence. As both men stumbled back towards the grave Styles broke the shovel over The Undertaker’s back sending him into the hole. Styles then climbed onto the digger to bury Taker when the best moment of the entire match happened. With Styles on the digger delighted with finally burying the Deadman, The Undertaker appeared from nowhere behind Styles. Words really cannot do this match justice.
Undertaker was now firmly in control as he savagely beat down Styles. Styles ran, climbing a ladder to a roof of the derelict house they had been fighting in front of. Flames shot up stopping Styles from an escape as Taker followed. Anderson and Gallows soon re-emerged to try and help Styles. Undertaker was in no mood to mess around, as he threw Gallows off the side of the roof into the abyss. Anderson was then Tombstoned. Undertaker then told Styles “it’s just you and me now AJ” as he hunted Styles down. While Styles pleaded with the Deadman, The Undertaker chokeslammed AJ off the roof to the ground below.
“You still wanna talk? What’s my wife’s name?” growled the Phenom as he approached Styles who was still out after the vicious chokeslam. Undertaker lifted AJ over his shoulder and carried him towards the grave. Styles again pleaded with Taker not to bury him and apologised over and over. As Styles continued to beg, Undertaker embraced him telling Styles that he fought his ass off and wouldn’t bury him. Taker turned to walk away before having second thoughts and kicked Styles into the grave.
The Undertaker then climbed upon the digger and filled the grave with the dirt that was already in the bucket. The only downside here is that the amount of dirt going into the grave was akin to putting two sugars in your coffee.
No referee was present to ring a bell but when one man buries another that’s normally a good indicator that the fight is over. As The Undertaker walked away, he uncovered the headstone at the top of the open grave to reveal that it read “AJ Styles Rest In Peace 1977-2020.” Styles’ fate had been set all along.
In a callback to The Undertaker’s Buried Alive match with Mankind in 1996, AJ’s gloved hand was seen sticking out of the dirt as Undertaker headed towards his bike. As he raised his arm as only Undertaker can, flames shot up again as the Deadman’s insignia was shone onto the front of the dilapidated house.
The Undertaker rode off into the darkness of the night and the sunset of his WWE career.
5. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins – WrestleMania 31 – WWE World Heavyweight Championship – 2015
This was the first of Roman Reigns’ WrestleMania main event appearances, and to say the WWE fans were happy with that would be a gross exaggeration at best.
The WWE at this time was a strange place. The fans were still reeling from CM Punk walking out of the company after the 2014 Royal Rumble. Anything that they remotely disliked was met by chants for the departed straight-edge star. The hopes of a champion they could get behind were fulfilled at WrestleMania XXX in 2014 by Daniel Bryan. Only for an injury to cruelly snatch the title away from Bryan. By the time the Royal Rumble in 2015 came around, the fans wanted to make themselves heard and their main target was Roman Reigns, the perceived ‘chosen one’ of WWE management.
The 2015 Royal Rumble is a prime example of a crowd hijacking a show. After Daniel Bryan was eliminated shockingly early from the Rumble, the Philadelphia fans sensed where the match was going. As the Royal Rumble match neared its conclusion, matters were not helped by The Authority’s Kane and Big Show slowly, so slowly, picking off any crowd favourites that were left. Roman Reigns then eliminated both men from the match causing Kane and Show to return to the ring and attack Reigns.
The Rock surprised everybody by coming to the ring and despatching Kane and Big Show. A late twist never materialised as Rusev re-entered the match to massive support as the crowd by now had adopted an ‘anyone but Roman’ approach to cheering.
Roman speared Rusev then eliminated the Bulgarian Brute to stand alone, winning his first Royal Rumble. The Rock joined him in the ring to celebrate but looked perplexed when not even his presence could stop the jeers of the fans being directed towards Reigns. Nevertheless, Reigns had won the Rumble and he was going to the main event of WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the first time in over ten years at SummerSlam 2014. This was that match against John Cena where Lesnar all but wiped the floor with him. Suplex after suplex befell Cena as Lesnar stripped the championship from him.
The main event of WrestleMania 31 in Levi’s Stadium was set – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. What was straightforward, was going to become anything but.
Reigns made his entrance through the crowd as was usual for him at the time. Lesnar entered to a huge ovation accompanied by his advocate Paul Heyman. One year after ‘The Conqueror’ had the ultimate WrestleMania moment when he ended The Undertaker’s legendary Streak.
Lesnar and Reigns started the match frenetically, vying for position and throwing bombs at each other. Lesnar’s cheek was cut within the first few seconds before he managed to hit the first German suplex of the night. An F5 followed and the California crowd thought they were about to see one of the shortest main events in WrestleMania history.
A variety of suplexes followed for Reigns. After a high-angle back suplex, Lesnar welcomed the challenger and fans around the world to ‘Suplex City b*tch.’ Each time Lesnar took Reigns down, Roman got up with a smile on his face. This angered Lesnar, the champion ramping up the intensity with every move that followed.
Compare this with their match at WrestleMania 34 and the big difference is Lesnar being this dominant was still novel. After his SummerSlam match with Cena, the crowd believed Lesnar could end this one whenever he wanted and Levi’s Stadium was here for that.
Another F5 from Lesnar only achieved a two count much to his displeasure. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion then took off his padded gloves, indicating things were about to get much worse for Reigns.
Back on the outside Reigns caught Lesnar, shoving the champion into the ring post busting Lesnar’s head open. Reigns then followed up with three Superman punches – the last of which finally took Lesnar down to the mat. Reigns hit a spear, and immediately a second but could only get a two count. The relief in the crowd was unmistakable.
Brock blocked another Superman punch, catching Reigns on his shoulders for another F5. Unable to pin his challenger, both men lay in the middle of the ring. Michael Cole screamed on commentary “who can capitalise?” The answer was ‘Mr. Money In The Bank’ Seth Rollins.
Rollins won the Money In The Bank briefcase in June 2014, just a couple of weeks after turning his back on Shield brothers Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. In the main event of WrestleMania Rollins was set to screw Reigns all over again.
Sprinting to the ring, Rollins then handed his briefcase to referee Mike Chioda. The announcement was made of the cash-in and the main event of WrestleMania was now a triple threat match. This was the first time anybody had cashed in mid-match and the first time the briefcase had been cashed in at WrestleMania.
With the crowd absolutely electric Rollins hit Lesnar with a Curb Stomp. Looking for another one, Seth ran at the champion only to get caught in position for the F5. With Rollins on Lesnar’s shoulders Reigns speared the champion and Rollins nailed Reigns with Curb Stomp before he could get back to his feet. Rollins pinned Reigns and won his first WWE World Championship.
The heist of the century was complete.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 26 – 2010
Streak vs. Career.
At Wrestlemania 25 in one of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time Shawn Michaels met The Undertaker one on one at the ‘Show of Shows’ for the first time. An all-time classic ensued as the two icons of WWE stole the show. This is hardly surprising considering those two men will go down in history as the two greatest WrestleMania competitors of all time.
One year later, with The Streak still intact, Michaels wanted a rematch and he was willing to raise the stakes as high as they go. The Heartbreak Kid put his career on the line.
Talk of a rematch started at the 2009 Slammy Awards that took place on December 14th, 2009. Accepting the Slammy Award for Match Of The Year for their WrestleMania 25 classic, HBK laid out the challenge to The Undertaker to meet him one more time.
One month later the World Heavyweight Champion The Undertaker refused Michaels’ challenge on the basis that he had nothing to prove to HBK after beating him already. Michaels had a plan B and that was to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Taker for his title.
At the 2010 Royal Rumble, The Undertaker retained his title against Rey Mysterio so the pressure was all on Michaels to win the Royal Rumble match. Michaels made it to the final four before Batista eliminated HBK. Michaels was distraught, even super kicking a referee as his dream of a rematch with The Undertaker seemed dead.
In the weeks that followed Michaels grew even more unhinged, trying to find another way of meeting the Deadman. His opportunity came at the Elimination Chamber in February. The Undertaker defended his World Title inside the Chamber. That match came down to Taker and Chris Jericho as the final two participants. With Undertaker about to put Jericho away, HBK emerged from under the Elimination Chamber before hitting Sweet Chin Music on the champion. Jericho pinned The Undertaker and won the World Title.
The next night on Raw The Undertaker – wearing a different jacket that covered his body after being burned the night before – confronted Michaels, incensed at being cost his World Heavyweight Championship. Finally, the Deadman accepted Michaels’ challenge for a match at WrestleMania. But only on one condition. Shawn Michaels had to put his career on the line. HBK accepted. Following that the match was also made No Holds Barred – only fitting for a match of this magnitude.
In front of seventy-plus thousand fans in the University of Phoenix Stadium, the two legends met one-on-one in the main event of WrestleMania 26.
The Undertaker came flying out of the traps at Michaels, taking an early advantage, even going to the top rope and hitting Old School on HBK. However Taker appeared to tweak his leg on landing and HBK like a shark smelling blood found a weakness to exploit.
Every time The Undertaker attempted offence Michaels went to the leg where he could, chopping away the base of his much bigger opponent. Undertaker teased a dive to the outside – the same one that went very wrong one year earlier – but Michaels leapt back in the ring, diving at Undertaker’s knee once again.
Michaels locked in the figure four leg lock as he attempted to punish Taker’s leg even more. Undertaker managed to roll over reversing the pressure and forcing Michaels to relinquish the hold. A brawl then broke out between the two men, with both men standing and fighting. Undertaker then caught HBK with a chokeslam for a two count. Shawn Michaels’ career continued.
HBK locked in the ankle lock, taking a page out of Kurt Angle’s playbook by grape-vining Taker’s leg to increase the pressure and reduce the chance of an escape. Taker managed to roll over onto his back then kicked Michaels until he broke the hold.
As Undertaker recuperated on the outside, Michaels attempted a springboard crossbody onto The Undertaker. Taker caught HBK and turned the move into a Tombstone on the floor.
Back in the ring, a Last Ride attempt by Undertaker was turned into a facebuster by Michaels as Taker’s bad leg gave out. Michael’s ascended to the top rope for an elbow drop but Undertaker got his knees up blocking the move.
Undertaker then locked in Hell’s Gate but Michaels managed to roll over trapping Taker in a pin for a close two count. As both men slowly clambered to their feet, Michaels hit his superkick out of nowhere for another agonising near fall.
The Deadman caught Michaels with a big kick and this time hit a massive Last Ride as he pinned Michaels for a two count of his own. The crowd in Arizona made themselves heard now. On the outside of the ring, Undertaker cleared the announce table as he told Michaels he was going to end it now. Taker attempted another Last Ride through the announce table but Michaels escaped and nailed another superkick. This time it left Undertaker prone on the table.
Shawn Michaels climbed to the top rope and leapt off with a spectacular moonsault through The Undertaker and through the announce table. The fact Michaels only caught Taker’s legs worked perfectly in the context of this match.
HBK tussled to get the Deadman back in the ring so he could capitalise. With Taker out on his feet, Michael tuned up the band once more and hit Sweet Chin Music, laying The Undertaker out. As Michael Cole screamed “The Streak is over, The Streak is over” The Undertaker had other ideas, kicking out of the ensuing pin at two.
At this point, all the seats in the University of Phoenix stadium could have disappeared and not a soul would have noticed as the crowd were on their feet for the duration of this one.
Michaels went for yet another superkick but got caught with a massive chokeslam and then a Tombstone. Undertaker crossed Michaels’ arms across his chest and rolled his eyes back in his head signalling this match was over but Michaels kicked out and the crowd screamed louder.
Undertaker then dropped his straps on his vest and was about to perform his classic throat-slash gesture to show that the end was nigh. But something stopped him in his tracks. That thing was Shawn Michaels clambering to his feet, using Taker’s body to stand.
In one last defiant act Michaels gave Taker his own throat slash and then slapped the taste out of the Deadman’s mouth. An irate Undertaker scooped Michaels up and hit perhaps the biggest jumping Tombstone of his career.
The Undertaker was now 18-0 at WrestleMania as The Streak lived on. Shawn Michaels’ legendary career was over.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock – WrestleMania X-Seven – WWF Championship – 2001
The biggest main event, at the biggest WrestleMania between the two biggest stars in WWF.
The world championship at stake, a personal issue, a compelling storyline, probably the best video package of all time. How is this not number one? Deep down, we already know that answer.
For the second – and final time in the main event – Stone Cold Steve Austin squared off with The Rock at WrestleMania. Two years prior Austin prevailed over The Rock at WrestleMania XV. In Houston, Texas in 2001 The Rock once again entered WrestleMania as the WWF Champion.
The Rock won the championship in February 2001 at No Way Out from Kurt Angle. Angle himself had won the title in October 2000 by defeating The Rock. Stone Cold’s path to the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven was a little more complicated than that.
In fact, it can be traced back to Austin’s horrific neck injury he suffered at SummerSlam 1997 in a match with Owen Hart. Hart hit Austin with a Tombstone but dropped to a seated position rather than his knees, jamming Austin’s neck badly in the process. Eventually, Austin needed surgery and to get his health in order. That happened around the time of Survivor Series 1999.
Originally Stone Cold was advertised for the WWF Championship match at Survivor Series against The Rock and Triple H. But Austin wasn’t going to compete. Instead, he was infamously run over at the event by an unknown assailant and taken to hospital. This was the reason given as to why Stone Cold, the biggest star in wrestling was missing.
Five months later the landscape of the WWF had shifted dramatically. Triple H had reformed DX, this time as part of the McMahon-Helmsley Faction – an alliance with the McMahon family of which he was now part of. They dominated WWF at this time with Triple H as WWF Champion. The group had taken to travelling on a bus christened the ‘DX Express.’ On the final SmackDown before Backlash in April 2000, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his first appearance on WWF television in months as he dropped a concrete beam onto the bus, destroying it.
At Backlash The Rock fought Triple H for the WWF Championship with Shane McMahon as the special referee. As was to be expected, the McMahons stacked the deck against The Rock and late in the match Austin arrived with the crowd in Washington D.C. absolutely exploding for the Rattlesnake. Austin evened the odds and then some, leaving The Rock to win the title.
Stone Cold returned once again in September 2000 as he began his investigation as to who was driving the car that mowed him down nearly one year before. In the end, it turned out to be Rikishi at the behest of Triple H in a bizarre turn of events. But the bottom line was Austin was back and he wanted the WWF Championship that he hadn’t held since August 1999. Luckily for Austin the Royal Rumble was approaching.
‘The Hardcore Royal Rumble’ is probably how the 2001 edition of the match is mainly remembered with a good chunk of the match devoted to kendo sticks and road signs and the such. Kane shone in the match as he set a new record for eliminations with 11 which wouldn’t be broken for over a decade. But ultimately, this was Austin’s night and as he threw The Big Red Machine over the top rope, Stone Cold had booked his place in the main of WrestleMania once again.
The story told itself, the all-conquering champion that had risen to the top. The returning hero, cruelly cut down in his prime looking to reclaim his crown. But things did get complicated somewhat, and the complication was Austin’s wife Debra.
On March 5th, 2001, Debra told Vince McMahon of her intention to return to managing WWF Superstars as she had done in the past. McMahon then revealed for the first time on screen that Debra was indeed married to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Sensing an opportunity to cause problems McMahon informed Debra there was an opportunity to manage someone. Not just someone but the WWF Champion The Rock. Steve Austin’s opponent in less than a month at WrestleMania.
Austin warned The Rock that if anything happened to Debra, it would be on his head. When Kurt Angle locked in the ankle lock on Debra during a match with The Rock, Austin snapped. First attacking Angle then dropping The Rock with two Stone Cold Stunners. The Rock retaliated a week later, nailing Austin first with the title belt and then with a Rock Bottom.
On SmackDown three days before WrestleMania Debra was relieved of her managerial duties after failing to stop Austin and The Rock brawling with each other. Years later Jim Ross confirmed that the Debra aspect of the storyline was nixed due to neither man being happy with it.
In interviews leading into WrestleMania one phrase that Stone Cold kept using stood out. “I need to be the World Wrestling Federation Champion.” Nobody could have foreseen what lengths Austin was prepared to stoop to satiate that need.
The first question mark came during the ring announcements for the match. Howard Finkel announced the match had been made No Disqualification despite it never being advertised as such.
Austin’s home state gave him a hero’s welcome as he made his way to the ring. Although The Rock received a fine reaction as well, the fans in the Reliant Astrodome in Houston were firmly behind the Texas Rattlesnake.
Before The Rock’s music stopped Austin attacked and the match was on. The combatants were going at a hundred miles per hour as they traded moves early on. Austin took control and hit a massive superplex on the champion. Looking to take advantage of the No-DQ rules, Austin stripped one of the turnbuckles leaving the steel exposed.
The two men spilled to the outside where Austin caved The Rock’s head in with the ring bell, causing Rock to bleed. Austin continued the assault on The Rock with an ultra-aggressive attitude. By now Rock had garnered jeers from the partisan crowd when he fought back against the challenger.
And fight back The Rock did, as he exploded onto Austin with a big clothesline out of the corner. The champion continued to take the fight to Austin, crashing Stone Cold headfirst into the turnbuckle he had earlier exposed. Turnabout was fair play for the People’s Champ as he got the ring bell and thumped Austin in the head with it. Both men now tasting their own blood as it flowed from their heads.
The Rock locked in the Sharpshooter on Austin and not for the first time Stone Cold was forced to try and fight that move while blood covered his face at WrestleMania. Unlike 1997, Austin was able to break the hold this time and locked in a Sharpshooter of his own. Austin was being forced to dig deep to find a way to try and beat The Rock. Very deep.
For the first time in several years, Austin locked in the Million Dollar Dream to try and put the champion to sleep. Austin’s need to be champion was becoming more and more apparent. After that didn’t work, The Rock displayed his inventiveness by hitting Austin with his own Stunner for a two count.
And then Vince McMahon walked to the ring.
The Rock caught Austin with a spinebuster and followed it up with a People’s Elbow. With the match about to be won and the referee’s count at two, McMahon entered the ring and pulled Rock off of Austin. The Great One was incensed. Rock chased McMahon around and then back into the ring only to get caught with a Rock Bottom by Austin as the fans erupted. But again, only a two count. Austin attempted a Stunner but was pushed into referee Earl Hebner who tumbled to the floor.
Uncharacteristically, Austin then hit Rock with a low blow. What he did next changed the course of wrestling history. Austin instructed his hated adversary McMahon to get a steel chair and McMahon complied. Austin held The Rock as the Chairman smashed the chair into Rock’s head. The crowd still seemingly pro-Austin as what was being seen was to shocking to be believed.
McMahon put Hebner back in the ring but The Rock kicked out at two. Austin then lost it, thumping The Rock over and over with the chair, growing more irate every time The Rock kicked out. Until a lashing of chair shots all over Rock’s body was enough. Austin pinned the champion and his need was satisfied. Stone Cold Steve Austin was WWF Champion – but at what cost?
After the match Austin and McMahon toasted their new alliance, sharing a beer and shaking hands.
Wrestlemania X-Seven is looked at as a high point in wrestling history, the zenith of the Attitude Era. The problem with high points is there’s only one way left to go. This marked Austin’s last WrestleMania main event and last WrestleMania title match. 15 months later, Stone Cold Steve Austin walked out of the WWF.
2. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan – WrestleMania XXX – WWE World Heavyweight Championship – 2014
New Orleans may have played host for the 30th edition of WrestleMania but the city also unwittingly played host to the one and only edition of ‘Yes-tleMania’ as Daniel Bryan became king.
The seeds of this match were sewn two years prior at WrestleMania 28 when Sheamus defeated Bryan in 18 seconds to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
A movement began that wanted more for Bryan and recognised him as one of the best wrestlers on the planet. Bryan’s career took an unexpected turn as he wound up in the hugely popular Team Hell No tag team with Kane. Together the two men won the WWE Tag Team Championship despite spending most of their time arguing with one another.
By the summer of 2013 fan support for Bryan was unparalleled. On the July 15th edition of Raw, the General Manager of the red brand Brad Maddox announced that John Cena could choose his own challenger for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. With Cena in the ring and most of the roster on the stage, the fans made it crystal clear who they wanted as the number one contender. And Cena didn’t disappoint naming Daniel Bryan as his challenger.
Six days before SummerSlam, Daniel Bryan faced Wade Barrett on Raw with GM Brad Maddox as referee. Maddox screwed Bryan, counting quickly to give Barrett the win. Later in the night, Vince McMahon was about to name Brad Maddox as the special referee for the Cena vs. Bryan match at SummerSlam when he was interrupted by his son-in-law Triple H. With the crowd cheering him on, Triple H revealed that he in fact was going to be the special referee in the SummerSlam main event to ensure it was called right down the middle. And in fairness, that match was.
After an epic contest between champion and challenger, Daniel Bryan nailed Cena with a running knee and pinned the champion. Triple H counted the fall. The California crowd rejoiced.
Randy Orton with his Money In The Bank briefcase appeared lurking and looking at the new champion. As Orton thought twice about cashing in, he turned to head back up the entranceway. Immediately after that, Bryan turned into a Pedigree from Triple H. Orton marched to the ring and cashed in, winning the title from Bryan.
The very next night on Raw The Authority of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, Randy Orton, and The Shield was born. As the show ended Jerry Lawler remarked “This is a black day for WWE.” A long, cold winter for Daniel Bryan awaited.
The next three months saw Bryan face Orton in title matches, with Bryan getting screwed progressively worse each time. By October the WWE Championship was vacant and Bryan took on Orton in Hell In A Cell for the title. Another special referee took charge in Shawn Michaels, with Bryan’s former trainer hitting Sweet Chin Music to cost Bryan the gold.
By December Daniel Bryan was caught up in a feud with the deranged Wyatt Family. Losing in a three-on-one handicap match to Wyatt, Harper, and Rowan at the TLC pay-per-view. On the same night, Randy Orton defeated John Cena to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships.
In a memorable ceremony on Raw before that match took place, the ring was filled with former champions. The crowd in Bryan’s home state of Washington then completely hijacked the segment, cheering non-stop for Daniel Bryan who was one of the former champions in the ring. Chaos ensued afterward with Bryan gaining a measure of revenge on HBK when he nailed him with the running knee.
The 2014 Royal Rumble was not a classic. The Rumble match itself was met with a wholly negative reaction on the night and after the event. The Pittsburgh crowd jeered everything in the Rumble match after CM Punk was eliminated and it became clear that Daniel Bryan was not going to be in the Rumble match at all. Ironically, Roman Reigns was cheered heavily as the Rumble match came down to himself and a returning Batista. Batista eventually overcame Reigns and won the match but the headlines were elsewhere.
That event was CM Punk’s last in WWE. The former WWE Champion went home and to date has not wrestled again.
Daniel Bryan was still with the company and had another chance to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Elimination Chamber in February. Bryan was the third entrant in the match, lasting to the end only to fall to reigning champion Randy Orton again, after being attacked by former partner Kane.
Bryan had now had enough. On March 3rd, Bryan challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania but The Game refused. If silence is the death knell in professional wrestling then the beginning of 2014 might be the greatest era ever. Every time Daniel Bryan appeared, any crowd he was in front of went crazy for him. Every crowd Triple H and The Authority were in front of were venomous to them.
The next week the full force of Bryan’s ‘Yes Movement’ was in effect as his supporters decided to ‘occupy Raw.’ In unprecedented scenes, the ring filled up with hundreds of Bryan’s supporters as he forced Triple H to acquiesce to his demands. Triple H finally gave in and gave Bryan his match. Bryan then added the stipulation that if he beat Triple H he’d be added to the Orton vs. Batista title match.
The next week on Raw, after Triple H argued with former Evolution comrades Batista and Randy Orton. The Game decided that the main event at WrestleMania was going to be a triple threat match no matter what and if Triple H beat Bryan then he’d join the match for the WWE World Title.
In an incredible opening WrestleMania contest, Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H with the running knee. Most surprisingly for a WrestleMania match that involved Triple H was the fact that Stephanie McMahon escaped unscathed. After the match Stephanie slapped Bryan, distracting him long enough for Triple H to attack. The Game hit Bryan repeatedly in the arm with a chair.
The WrestleMania crowd in New Orleans witnessed a historic event before Bryan’s title match. Earlier in the night, they witnessed the end of The Streak. Brock Lesnar shockingly defeated The Undertaker for the very first time at WrestleMania. Silence filled the Superdome for minutes afterward as fans could not believe what they had seen. This could have killed the crowd for the main event, only one man could pick them back up and that was Daniel Bryan.
The match began with Bryan racing out of the traps but Batista and Orton soon had the ring to themselves. The crowd was quiet in the early going as the action revolved around the champion and the Royal Rumble winner. Batista looked to set up Orton for a Batista Bomb on the steel steps but was backdropped onto them by the Viper.
Bryan got back amongst the action, nailing both men with kicks in the corner as the crowd perked up before The Animal suplexed Bryan over the top rope to the floor. After Orton hit a superplex on Batista, Bryan flew off the top rope with a flying headbutt onto Orton. Bryan then trapped Orton in the Yes Lock prompting Triple H and Stephanie to make a return.
Triple H pulled referee Mike Chioda from the ring. That distraction allowed Batista to hit a spinebuster, while The Authority’s hand-picked official Scott Armstrong entered the ring. Batista hit his powerbomb and Armstrong only counted to two before Bryan kicked out. The referee using a fair count much to the consternation of Triple H and Stephanie on the outside.
That was enough to bring the entire crowd to their feet as Yes chants filled the Superdome. Armstrong went to check on Bryan and got a kick in the head for his trouble as he fell to the outside. As Triple H and Stephanie helped Armstrong up, Bryan flew through the ropes taking all three of them out. So much for Stephanie McMahon remaining unscathed.
A furious Triple H went straight to his trusted sledgehammer. Before he could get in the ring, however, he was met with a kick from Bryan. Daniel Bryan then took the sledgehammer and crashed it into the skull of the COO.
Orton then dragged Bryan to the outside of the ring before Batista joined them as the two-men double-teamed Bryan. Orton and Batista then cleared the announce tables as they sought to eliminate Bryan once and for all. Batista hoisted Bryan up while standing on one of the tables and threw him forward into an RKO through the other table. A devastating move.
With doctors checking on Bryan, the match was back to the original one-on-one contest that had been promised as the crowd silenced once again. As Bryan was strapped to a gurney and about to be wheeled from the arena, he stirred and unstrapped himself, determined to rejoin the match. Orton spied what was happening and slithered over to send Bryan into the ring steps.
Back in the ring, Orton attempted an RKO on Bryan but this was reversed into the Yes Lock. Batista broke the hold saving the title for himself but Bryan soon caught The Animal in the Yes Lock as well. This time Orton returned the favour and broke the hold.
With Bryan on the outside and Batista struggling to get to his feet, Orton went to a dark place inside his mind as he measured Batista up for a punt kick to the head. Before he connected he was stopped by a running knee from Bryan. Batista cleared Bryan from the ring as he looked to pick up the scraps but Orton kicked out at two.
Batista hit the Batista Bomb on Orton before he was smacked with the running knee of Daniel Bryan. The noise was deafening. Bryan locked in the Yes Lock on Batista as Michael Cole on commentary had the performance of his career screaming “Tap out Batista! Tap out Batista!”
And Batista finally did. Bryan had won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the grandest stage of them all. “The impossible dream has become reality,” exclaimed Cole. The Miracle on Bourbon Street had come true.
1. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H – WrestleMania XX – World Heavyweight Championship – 2004
Where it all began again, in Madison Square Garden, New York City.
On December 29th, 2003, Shawn Michaels challenged Evolution leader Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The match ended in controversy after Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on The Game and fell on top of him for the pin. Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff made the three count but he saw both men’s shoulders on the mat. So Bischoff declared a draw with Triple H retaining his title.
The Sheriff of Raw, Stone Cold Steve Austin made a rematch between the two men for the Royal Rumble in a Last Man Standing match. In a brutal and bloody encounter, neither man could answer the ten count so again, the match was declared a draw with Triple H retaining his title.
Meanwhile, on SmackDown, General Manager Paul Heyman was making Chris Benoit’s life hell. After winning a place in the Royal Rumble match, Heyman forced Benoit to be the number one entrant, severely reducing his chances of winning. After all, only one man had entered the Royal Rumble at number one and come out victorious.
The 2004 Royal Rumble match came down to Chris Benoit and The Big Show. Big Show lifted Benoit over the ropes but Benoit held on to the giant with a front face lock and agonisingly dragged him over the top rope and sent the massive Big Show to the floor.
The next night on Raw as Shawn Michaels and Triple H argued over another match for the title. Sheriff Austin introduced the blue brand’s Royal Rumble winner much to everyone’s surprise. Benoit announced his defection to Raw and his intention to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania.
Triple H was World Champion. Chris Benoit had won the Royal Rumble. So where does Shawn Michaels fit in?
On the 9th of February edition of Raw, a contract signing took place for the main event of WrestleMania XX. Triple H signed the contract first committing himself to the match. Before Benoit signed, however, The Heartbreak Kid interrupted proceedings. After apologising to Benoit for stealing his moment, HBK then super kicked Benoit and stole his WrestleMania match as well. Signing the contract intended for Benoit.
The next week Sheriff Austin clarified the WrestleMania main event, announcing the triple threat match for the main event in Madison Square Garden.
The rowdy New York crowd cheered Benoit as the match began as he and Michaels fought over who got to battle Triple H first. Michaels and Benoit then paired off as Triple H was sent to the outside. Then it was Benoit’s turn to get thrown to the floor as the former DX teammates battled. With Benoit and Triple H both outside the ring, Michaels headed to the top rope, before hitting a picture-perfect moonsault on both adversaries on the floor. With all three men back inside the ropes, Benoit cleared out Michaels before dropping Triple H with the trio of German suplexes. Benoit went to the top for a diving headbutt attempt but Triple H caught him with a superplex.
Shawn Michaels attempted a German suplex of his own before Benoit repeated the hat-trick on HBK. The New York crowd started to come back to life after being uncharacteristically quiet in the opening exchanges. Benoit ascended the ropes once more and this time nailed HBK with his headbutt.
With Benoit sent to the outside once again, Michaels hit his flying elbow drop on Triple H, following that up with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels covered Triple H but Benoit managed to drag Triple H away from having his shoulders counted down. HBK and Benoit once more squared off one-on-one. Benoit sent Michaels flying with a catapult and HBK’s head met the ring post busting him open. Benoit then locked in the Crossface, with nowhere to go Michaels was about to tap out before Triple H grabbed his hand to stop him and save his title.
Triple H and Benoit fought outside at the announce desks. Triple H cleared one and dragged Benoit onto it. Michaels, who by now was bleeding profusely soon joined them. Michaels and Triple H then suplexed Benoit through a table on the outside. The match was now down to a one-on-one contest between the former DX partners.
On the outside of the ring, Michaels drove Triple H’s head into the ring post causing The Game to bleed as well. Out of nowhere, Triple H hit a Pedigree on Michaels with both men collapsing in the ring. The fans in attendance came to life as Benoit started to emerge from the wreckage of the announce tables.
Benoit fought back into the match and locked Triple H in the Sharpshooter as Madison Square Garden was now electric. This time with Triple H trapped, Michaels saved the match with a huge superkick to Benoit to break the hold. Michaels went for another kick but Benoit ducked and dumped HBK to the outside.
Triple H caught Benoit as he attempted a Pedigree but Benoit reversed it, taking The Game down to the mat in the Crippler Crossface. With Triple H inches from the ropes, Benoit rolled both men backward maintaining the hold. Triple H was now caught in the middle of the ring with nowhere to go. As Triple H tapped out, the New York crowd went wild.
The new World Heavyweight Champion stood in the ring with his best friend, WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero in one of the most emotional WrestleMania endings of all time.