Every WrestleMania Not Headlined By A World Title Match

The Undertaker & Shawn Michaels

The inaugural WrestleMania took place on March 31, 1985. That event was headlined by a tag team encounter pitting WWF World Champion, Hulk Hogan and Mr T opposite ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff.

From WrestleMania II onwards, the event was typically headlined by a WWE World Title match and became famous for new champions being crowned in the main event.

However, six ‘Mania events have not been headlined by a WWE World Title match. On these occasions, other showcase battles have closed the pay-per-view instead.

For the purposes of this feature, the Boneyard Match from WrestleMania 36 is not included as the event was headlined by a WWE World Title match on night two as Drew McIntyre upended Brock Lesnar for the gold.


WrestleMania 1

The inaugural WrestleMania was not headlined by a World Title match. Instead, the featured attraction was a bout pitting WWF World Champion, Hulk Hogan and Mr T opposite ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff.

The match and the event were a great success and established the WWF in the mainstream. Emboldened by the experiment, WWF Chairman, Vince McMahon ran the sequel, WrestleMania II the following year. On that occasion, the event was headlined by a WWF Title bout. The headliner saw Hogan defending the WWF Championship against King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage.

WrestleMania VIII

WrestleMania VIII Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice

WrestleMania VIII played host to an incredible WWF Championship match between ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. However, that classic bout did not headline the show. What did headline was the rather lacklustre match-up pitting Hulk Hogan against Sid Justice.

The contest was billed as Hogan’s last match. In actuality, that was a cover story for ‘The Hulkster’ stepping away from the limelight due to the furore around the Steroid Scandal that was engulfing the Federation at the time. For his part, Justice also departed the company within a month of the show, when he refused to serve a suspension for a failed drugs test.

WrestleMania XI

WrestleMania XI did feature a WWF Championship bout. However, the match pitting challenger, Shawn Michaels versus WWF Champion, Diesel had to settle for the semi-final spot instead.

The match-up between Bam Bam Bigelow and former NFL linebacker, Lawrence Taylor went on last, rather than the contest featuring the company’s two biggest stars.

It was a curious decision as Bigelow was strictly a mid-card act in the WWF. Just two months earlier at the Royal Rumble, he had dropped a Tag Team Championship match, with partner, Tatanka, to opening match wrestlers, Bob ‘Sparky Plugg’ Holly and The 1-2-3 Kid.

The WWF had also misread the mainstream interest in Taylor’s participation. The show, promoted around the bout disappointed at the box office. That was a shame, as the match was a highly entertaining contest.

WrestleMania XXVI

WrestleMania XXVI played host to two WWE World Title matches; Chris Jericho versus Edge and Batista versus John Cena but neither had the appeal of the show’s actual main event.

Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker clashed for the second consecutive WrestleMania in the headline spot. Much like their contest the previous year, Michaels and ‘The Phenom’ stole the show.

Billed, as Career versus Streak, The Undertaker put his famed 17-0 undefeated streak on the line against ‘The Heartbreak Kid’s’ career.

In a stunning match, one of the finest of the decade, The Undertaker pinned Michaels to bring the curtain down on HBK’s legendary career.

WrestleMania 28

‘Once in a lifetime’ was how WWE billed their main event of WrestleMania 28. The Rock’s first singles match since Backlash 2003 nine years earlier overshadowed everything else on the card.

The Rock took on WWE’s biggest star, since his retirement, John Cena in the headline spot. That meant that the show’s WWE World Title bout had to settle for second billing.

CM Punk successfully defended his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho in a decent bout. From a mainstream perspective, that match-up did not hold the appeal of The Rock versus Cena.

Such was the success of The Rock versus Cena match, WWE opted to promote a re-match at the following year’s ‘Showcase of the Immortals’, breaking their ‘once in a lifetime’ promise. On this occasion, the WWE Championship was at stake.

WrestleMania 33

The last WrestleMania that was not headlined by a World Title match took place five years ago, at WrestleMania 33.

There were two World Title matches on the under-card. Moreover, neither were suitable to headline the show.

Goldberg versus Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title was an incredible, hard hitting contest. However, at only six minutes in duration, it was never going to headline. Bray Wyatt versus Randy Orton for the WWE Championship did not have the mass appeal to main event WrestleMania.

Therefore, Roman Reigns versus The Undertaker, in a match, which at the time was expected to be ‘The Phenom’s last was the only logical choice to headline.

Unfortunately, the match was a calamity. One of the worst ‘Mania main events of all time. The poor reception to the contest, led to The Undertaker returning to the ring. He eventually retired after his Boneyard Match with AJ Styles, which headlined night one of WrestleMania 36.

You can watch every WrestleMania event exclusively on the WWE Network.