There have been hundreds of matches in the annals of professional wrestling’s (sorry sports entertainment, Ugh) greatest live event, The Grandest Stage of Them All, but only the select one or two every year get ‘main event’ billing. In the shadow of the biggest event of the year, and a potential first women’s main event, I’m Scott Hammond and I’m counting down my top five WrestleMania main events of all time.
Number 5 – WrestleMania VI – ‘The Ultimate Challenge’ The Ultimate Warrior (c) vs Hulk Hogan (c)
This match was built as probably the biggest ‘dream’ match of the 1980s despite the fact that the match occurred in the first WrestleMania of the 1990s. This match took place on April 1st, 1990, from the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada, and literally dwarfed anything else on the show (Rick Rude defeated Jimmy Snuka in the undercard, remember that? Me either). On top of that, it was the first babyface vs babyface main event in WrestleMania history. It was the ultimate power and speed of the Ultimate Warrior against Hulkamania, and the match was decent.
The crowd was a big part of the ebb-and-flow of the match, and with both men doing very little in terms of ‘big’ moves, just the visual of the two men standing face-to-face was an iconic WrestleMania moment. The Warrior ended up winning the bout, hitting his press slam/splash combination and became a joint WWF Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion, followed by a rather awkward hug between the two men. (Psst, they didn’t like each other).
Number 4 – WrestleMania X-Seven – The Rock (c) vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Three times this match main-evented a WrestleMania, and undoubtedly this was the match that encapsulated the greatness of this feud. Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble, coming off a long layoff after having career-lengthening neck surgery, and The Rock defeated Kurt Angle at the previous month’s Pay Per View Backlash to become a six-time WWF Champion. The build for the match focused on Austin’s return to the ring and everything he went through to get there. The story was enough to sell the event, a no DQ match, held at the Houston AstroDome in Texas, Austin’s home state, and the fan dichotomy was very much in Austin’s favour. The hype for this match was only superseded by the events that unfolded towards the end of an epic and intense title match.
Austin, become visibly more frustrated as The Rock’s insistence on kicking out of everything he threw at him. Vince McMahon made his way down the aisle and assisted Austin by delivering a chair to him in the ring. Austin proceeded to wear the chair out on The Rock. McMahon then got in the ring, helping Austin lay into the Rock with the chair again, making sure the referee counted to three. After the match, as Austin celebrated his title win, with the crowd in shocked silence, one of the most infamous WrestleMania moments took place. Austin and McMahon went face-to-face, and shook hands, bringing the long term foes together for the first time in their storied history.
Number 3 – WrestleMania X-8 – The Rock vs ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan
Few WrestleMania main event matches are considered mat classics. Most rely on great storytelling and the grandeur of big moments. None more so than this. In early 2002, at the No Way Out Pay Per View, the WWE had rehired the original three members of the New World Order (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan). The Rock and Hogan started the build to their match the night after on RAW, and as the weeks went on, and the nWo kept getting the upper hand, more fans were chanting for Hogan. At WrestleMania, the two men went face-to-face, as the crowd in the SkyDome went crazy, chanting for Hogan. Every small offensive move that Hogan performed was met with a loud approving roar, and on the flip side whenever the Rock did anything offensive, he was met with a chorus of boos especially at the finish, with The Rock winning the match with the People’s Elbow. A mat classic it was most definitely not, but the story both men told, along with the electric crowd made this a true moment to remember. Hogan would go on to turn face the next night and revive the ‘Real American’ gimmick.
Number 2 – WrestleMania III – André The Giant (c) vs Hulk Hogan
I don’t think you can really get through a top WrestleMania main event countdown without this match somewhere. The build to this match was epic, Andre, unbeaten in 15 years in the WWF, Hogan being the champion for three years. Two friends in conflict, in two separate Piper’s Pit segments, lead to the famous moment that André, flanked by new manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan challenged Hogan to a match before attacking him, ripping his famed ‘Hulkamania’ shirt into shreds. The match itself was a slow, sluggish affair, with Andre getting in much of the offence, using rest holds and big punches and kicks to keep Hogan down. This continued until the much expected ‘Hulk-Up’ by Hogan provided the huge crowd at the Pontiac Superdo… I mean Silverdome a reason to make their voices heard. And then it happened. After attempting it a couple of times and failing, Hogan lifted André and hit a scoop slam in what is still considered to this day the greatest WrestleMania moment of all time. Hogan hit the leg drop, and got the pinfall victory, ending the longest unbeaten streak in WWE history.
Number 1 – WrestleMania XXVI – The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (Streak vs Career Match)
This will most likely split opinion, as the first of the meeting’s between these two legends at WrestleMania 25 was arguably a better match in terms of story, but the significance of this match was far higher. With Shawn Michaels taking the Undertaker to the limit the year before, the story going into this was incredibly well written and delivered. Michaels, who was so sure of his ability to beat the streak, needed to up the stakes in order for the Undertaker to accept the challenge. He cost ‘Taker his chance to win the World title at the previous months Elimination Chamber Pay Per View, and the next night on RAW the Undertaker said he would accept Michaels challenge only if he put his career on the line. The match was agreed on by Michaels, and what a match it was. Drama was an understatement, as many of the fans in attendance knew it would be Michaels final match, the near falls and false finishes had everyone fully invested as the match drew to its close. After two Tombstone Piledrivers, the Undertaker pinned Michaels and got only a two count to his shock and to the shock and awe of the fans in attendance. With one final act of defiance, Shawn Michaels slapped the Undertaker, who proceeded to hit a jumping Tombstone Piledriver for the three-count. After the match, both men had an emotional embrace, and as the curtain came down on Michaels illustrious career, he was left in the ring to a standing ovation fitting of his incredible contribution to professional wrestling.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE.com