WrestleMania debuted in March 1985 as a closed circuit spectacular. The event turned wrestling into a pop culture phenomenon. 36 years later and the 37th edition of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’ is set to take place over the weekend of April 10 and April 11.
On that show, Randy Orton and ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt are slated to face off for the second time at WrestleMania.
Their previous encounter at WrestleMania 33 was a disappointment. Orton captured the WWE Championship from Wyatt in a bout memorable only for the projections of maggots and other creepy crawlies onto the ring canvas.
Orton versus Wyatt at WrestleMania 37 will mark the 13th occasion wherein the same opponents have clashed with one another at WrestleMania. This article relives the previous 12.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant – WrestleMania III & IV
Hulk Hogan versus Andre ‘The Giant’ at WrestleMania III was the most masterfully booked match of all time.
Set up brilliantly on the February 7, 1987 edition of Piper’s Pit, Andre joined forces with the dastardly Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. The ‘Weasel’ had convinced his new charge that Hogan had been ducking him for years and was only his friend to avoid facing him inside the ring.
Their WrestleMania III bout wasn’t a technical masterclass but it was a stunning spectacle and incredible storytelling. After trying (and failing) to slam Andre, ‘The Hulkster’s WWF title seemed to be in jeopardy. When Hogan finally did bodyslam the giant, the 78,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome erupted. The pair squared off at the following year’s ‘Mania too. That bout was decidedly less memorable and ended in a double disqualification after Andre and Hogan attacked each other with chairs.
That result ended their participation in the tournament to decide a new WWF World Champion. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage defeated ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase in the final.
Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX & X
Despite reigning as WWF Champion for six months, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart was failing to gain momentum as the company’s premier titleholder. He was booked to lose the title at WrestleMania IX to the mammoth Yokozuna in a tedious match-up that ended in a screw job finish.
With Yokozuna close to submitting in Hart’s signature Sharpshooter submission, his devious manager, Mr Fuji threw salt into Hart’s eyes. That interference distracted the champion long enough to be pinned by his challenger. Yokozuna was the new champion, but he unwisely challenged Hulk Hogan to an impromptu title bout and dropped the strap two minutes later.
The following year saw a repeat main event. This time Hart was challenging Yokozuna for the belt. This encounter was more spirited and entertaining than their previous effort and had a feel good ending. Hart defeated the Sumo Wrestler to become champion for a second time.
The Undertaker vs. Kane – WrestleMania XIV & XX
The hype for the first ever collision between The Undertaker and his long lost brother, Kane began during the summer of 1997. Kane, himself would not appear in the WWF until October 5 that year, when he interfered in the first ever Hell in a Cell bout between his brother and Shawn Michaels.
Almost six months later, the pair finally met inside the ring at WrestleMania XIV. Kane outmuscled his older brother for much of their bout and it would take three Tombstones from ‘The Phenom’ to defeat the ‘Big Red Machine.’ Six years later, the ‘Brothers of Destruction’ clashed again on the grandest stage in another heavily hyped encounter at WrestleMania XX.
Four months earlier, Kane had buried his brother alive. However, The Undertaker rose and returned to his ‘Deadman’ persona after wrestling for three years as the more human, ‘American Bad Ass’ character.
The Undertaker defeated his younger sibling once again in a disappointing encounter to extend his WrestleMania winning steak to 12-0.
The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania XV, X-Seven & XIX
The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin were the first wrestlers to wrestle each other three times at WrestleMania. Their trilogy of bouts are all time classics.
The pair first clashed in the main event of WrestleMania XV, wherein WWF Champion, The Rock dropped the belt to ‘Stone Cold’ in the only highlight of a miserable WrestleMania card. They surpassed themselves two years later in the record setting WrestleMania X-Seven headliner. It was a superb match-up, full of emotion in front of a red hot Texas crowd.
The partisan fans were fully behind their fellow Texan, ‘Stone Cold’, even when he turned heel and aligned himself with former long-time foe, Mr McMahon. ‘The Bionic Redneck’ defeated The Rock to win his fifth WWF Championship and drank a beer with the boss post-match. It was a shocking conclusion to one of the greatest main events in WrestleMania history.
The trilogy concluded with another fabulous match at WrestleMania XIX, which was also Austin’s final ever. This time, The Rock finally overcame ‘The Rattlesnake’ and pinned his nemesis after three Rock Bottoms.
Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz – WrestleMania 2000 & X-Seven
The triumvirate of Edge & Christian, The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz put on consecutive clinics at WrestleMania 2000 and WrestleMania X-Seven.
Their first bout was billed as a Triangle Ladder Match, but included numerous chair and tables spots. The most memorable of which was at the bout’s conclusion. Edge hurled Matt Hardy off of a table positioned between two ladders allowing himself and his ‘brother’ Christian to claim their first WWF Tag Team title.
The ante was upped the following year in a TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs), bout. The teams outdid themselves with another breath-taking finish. Whilst Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley were battling atop a ladder for the belts, they were pushed out of the ring through a pile of four tables.
Edge & Christian, as they had done at WrestleMania 2000 emerged victorious once more, and lifted a then record seventh WWF Tag Team Title.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H – WrestleMania X-Seven, XXVII & XXVIII
The second trilogy of WrestleMania bouts saw Triple H square off with The Undertaker at WrestleMania X-Seven, XXVII and XXVIII.
Their first battle was an excellent Attitude Era brawl as the participants fought through the crowd for most of their bloody encounter. An incredible false finish saw ‘The American Bad Ass’ hoist ‘The Game’ up for a Last Ride, only to be smashed in the head by a sledgehammer shot. ‘Taker was not to be denied however and another Last Ride put Triple H down for the three count.
A decade after that encounter, the ‘Deadman’ and the ‘Cerebral Assassin’ met once again at ‘Mania. This time the feud was personal as Triple H sought revenge for ‘Taker retiring his best friend, Shawn Michaels at the previous year’s WrestleMania. Although ‘The Game’ battered The Undertaker for much of their 29 minute match, one mistake saw him succumb to ‘The Deadman’s’ Hell’s Gate submission. Despite his win, ‘Taker couldn’t walk away from the ring following the bout.
The finest match of the trilogy was it’s epic conclusion. ‘The End of an Era’ bout took place inside Hell in a Cell.
With Shawn Michaels installed as the special referee, the stage was set for a dramatic spectacle. So it proved. Full of twists and turns and call-backs to the previous year’s WrestleMania battle as well as the bouts with Michaels at WrestleMania 25 and XXVI.
Triple H dominated the early portions of the clash but was finally worn down as the ‘Phenom’ would not quit. ‘Taker finally won with a Tombstone as Michaels reluctantly counted the pin. All three men embraced after the match in a memorable bookend to the feud.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania XX & 33
When WCW legend, Bill Goldberg finally debuted in WWE in spring 2003, fans immediately salivated at the prospect of him tangling with ‘The Next Big Thing’ Brock Lesnar. Similar in stature, each with an arsenal of devastating power moves and superstar auras to match, their clash was likely to be one for the ages.
After months of teases and dissension between the two, the pair finally collided at WrestleMania XX on March 14, 2004. However, far from being a classic collision, the bout was a calamity. Word had leaked out before the event, that both Goldberg and Lesnar were leaving the company immediately following the show. Fans turned on the match before it began. When the bell rang and the action commenced at a snail’s pace, the crowd reaction turned even more sour. It was almost as if the powers that be had purposely booked the match to be as dull as possible, as a vindictive going away gift to both wrestlers.
Goldberg won with his patented Spear and Jackhammer combination. Thankfully, over a decade later, Goldberg and Lesnar were given the opportunity to right the wrong and erase memories of their dismal ‘Mania XX bout. Despite their advancing age, at WrestleMania 33 in the Universal Championship match, the pair smashed each other with high impact move after high impact move. The action never stopped in one of the finest five minute matches of all time. On this occasion, Lesnar avenged his previous loss and evened the WrestleMania scorecard with ‘Da Man.
In this case, the sequel far surpassed the original.
Triple H vs. Batista – WrestleMania 21 & 35
The slow burning dissension storyline between World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H and his protégée, Batista is one of the finest in WWE history.
The feud turned bland mid-carder, Batista into a bona fide headliner. However, the match between ’The Game’ and ‘The Animal’ in the main event of WrestleMania 21 was an overlong bore. However, it was still better then their calamitous re-match at WrestleMania 35.
In Batista’s final match, he tripped over the ring ropes during his entrance. Unfortunately, it was a bad omen. The veterans blew spot after spot as ‘The Animal’s’ in-ring career ended with a whimper.
Triple H and Batista have contested several classic matches; just not at WrestleMania.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 25 & XXVI
At WrestleMania’s 25 and XXVI, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker contested the two finest matches in WrestleMania history.
Their WrestleMania 25 battle was as close to perfect as a wrestling match could be. Starting off slowly and building to a crescendo of big moves and counter moves and false finishes, the pair had their fellow Texans in Houston eating out of the palm of their hands. The Undertaker caught Michaels mid flight during a moonsault attempt and hit the Tombstone for the pinfall.
Their re-match the following year, supported by the Streak versus Career stipulation was greater still. Filled with emotion, perfect psychology and call-backs to their previous encounter, ‘HBK’ and the ‘Deadman’ put on wrestling clinic.
With Michaels pulling out all the stops and refusing to lie down and kicking out of a Chokeslam and Tombstone, ‘Taker resorted to a jumping Tombstone to end ‘HBK’s’ career (at least until Crown Jewel, eight years later).
It doesn’t get any better than this.
The Rock vs. John Cena – WrestleMania XXVIII & 29
When The Rock returned to WWE in 2011 after a seven year absence, it was inevitable that we would return to the squared circle. The ‘Brahma Bull’ would face off with John Cena in a battle between era’s. The clash was billed as ‘Once in a Lifetime.’
Their bout at WrestleMania XXVIII was average but would have significantly better had it been half as long. The Rock pinned Cena with a Rock Bottom after 28 minutes, to the delight of his hometown Florida crowd.
‘Once in a Lifetime ’ became an annual event when The Rock and Cena clashed 12 months later in a WrestleMania rematch. The match was a shade below their previous encounter, hampered by a groin injury suffered by Rock early on, which ruled him out of wrestling at Extreme Rules, the following month as was the original plan.
This time, Cena evened the score and defeated ‘The People’s Champion’ to win his 11th WWE Championship. That continued The Rock’s unwanted record of losing all four of his World title bouts at WrestleMania.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt – WrestleMania XXX & 36
In the spring of 2014, Bray Wyatt was riding the crest of a wave as one of the hottest stars in the business. His Wyatt Family faction had come off a rewarding series of six man tag team matches with The Shield that had wowed fans with their energy. The Wyatt’s had repeatedly bested the previously impenetrable Shield.
When Wyatt was programmed with WWE’s biggest star, John Cena on the undercard of WrestleMania XXX, it seemed a passing of the torch was imminent. However, it was not to be. Cena crushed Wyatt’s momentum, defeating him in a clumsy match.
Their re-match at WrestleMania 36 within the Firefly Funhouse couldn’t have been more different. Righting the wrongs of six years earlier, Wyatt took Cena through a psychological, dreamlike journey, forcing the leader of the Cenation to face up to his past transgressions. After inflicting mental torture on his opponent, Wyatt transformed into ‘The Fiend’ and pinned Cena then seemingly made the former 16 time WWE Champion vanish from existence.
The final chapter in the Wyatt/Cena feud was the perfect bookend.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns – WrestleMania 31 & 34
Heading into WrestleMania 31, it was widely expected Roman Reigns would dethrone long-time WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar.
Reigns had been selected by WWE as their new company figurehead and won the 2015 Royal Rumble. However, the ‘Big Dog’ and WWE faced a backlash from the WWE Universe, who wanted to see Daniel Bryan in that spot instead. Fan resentment for Reigns had reached fever pitch by the time WrestleMania had rolled around. So much so, WWE changed their plans.
Reigns and Lesnar contested a decent bout in the headline spot but the fans responded more favourably at the conclusion, when Money in the Bank briefcase holder, Seth Rollins darted to the ring. Turning the bout into a Triple Threat Match, Rollins pinned Reigns to win the match and the title.
WWE repeated the formula three years later at WrestleMania 34 when it booked Reigns and Lesnar in the main-event again. The re-match was an even bigger calamity, with the live crowd rejecting the match as soon as it began.
It was a bizarre sight to see a WrestleMania main-event shunned so utterly by WWE’s most loyal fans. The action was mediocre too. Despite how great both Reigns and Lesnar are, they simply do not have great chemistry between the ropes.
Don’t expect the ‘Tribal Chief’ and the ‘Beast’ to make it a trilogy of WrestleMania matches.
You can watch every single WrestleMania event exclusively on the WWE Network.