Every year, no matter the quality of the WWE product, I think most fans still get super excited for WrestleMania. It’s still the Super Bowl of pro-wrestling, and as this year’s installment will be the thirty-seventh, the legend continues to grow. Even if they don’t like to number it anymore.
When you look back on ‘Manias of the past, the most significant part of each is usually its main event. Sure, there are great matches and moments throughout, but for most of the shows, the lasting memory is what we see as it goes off the air, it’s what the last match is, for better or for worse. The main event is supposed to be what everyone buys tickets to see. The main event in a lot of ways makes or breaks every show, let alone the biggest of the year.
When you think of WrestleMania III you think of Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan. WrestleMania XII? Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels. WrestleMania X-Seven – Steve Austin vs the Rock. The list goes on.
To go on last, on the biggest show of the year, to likely be part of what people will remember about wrestling’s World Series, to have your name etched in history like that where no one can take it away from you. It’s probably up there with winning any of the biggest championships for a pro wrestler.
Let’s look at who has the most ‘Mania main events. Hulk Hogan has eight; Triple H seven (like he’s married to the business); Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, the Rock, Triple H and John Cena all have five, Brock Lesnar & Roman Reigns have four, the rest have two or less. Of the nine just mentioned, I think it makes sense that they’ve been in the main event. They’ve all at one time or another been the biggest star in WWF/E.
Now, I want to go through everyone who’s main-evented WrestleMania twice and put them in three categories: (1) Deserved more than two, (2) Two is fair, (3) Wasn’t worthy of two.
I must disclaim that not being worthy isn’t necessarily a knock on the talent, it could mean more the fact that there was a more main-event worthy match on that card. It could mean they stink. In category (1) I have Randy Savage and Bret Hart, in (2) I have Randy Orton and Batista, in (3) I have Sid and Yokozuna.
Next, I’ll go through all of those with a single ‘Mania main event on their resume. I’m going to do the same categories as the previous paragraph; (1) Deserved/s more than one, (2) One is fair, (3) Not Worthy of One.
In (1) I have Roddy Piper, Andre The Giant, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Edge, Daniel Bryan, Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. In (2) I have Mr. T, Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, Ted DiBiase, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, Big Show, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles (I guess?) and Drew McIntyre. In (3) I have Bam Bam Bigelow, Lawrence Taylor and the Miz. I’d love to see prime Lawrence Taylor tackle the Miz.
I am aware of Lawrence Taylor’s 132.5 career sacks and of course his status as an NFL legend, but if J.J. Watt or Aaron Donald wanted to compete on WrestleMania, but I don’t think they should be put in the main event. As for the Miz, well, it’s the Miz. It should’ve been John Cena vs The Undertaker for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, however you want to get in and out of that is fine, as long as the match happens. I’ll die on this hill.
Let’s talk about wrestlers who should have been in a WrestleMania main event in their career but never were. The biggest stars in WWE history to never go on last on the grandest stage of them all. I don’t expect you to agree, it’s just my opinion. It’s a topic that is important to me, I like to believe that this is one of the more legitimate measures of merit in pro-wrestling.
Flair might be the most legendary wrestler to ever be active while WrestleManias were happening while never competing in the main event of one. I’m still somewhat surprised that Ric Flair’s ‘retirement’ match against Shawn Michaels didn’t go on last at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, but maybe that year they wanted the belt to go on last. I’ve heard that Vince McMahon sometimes has a change of heart.
The fact that Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair didn’t happen in the main event of WrestleMania while they were both in WWF is one of the biggest what-if?’s and mistakes of pro-wrestling. Hogan vs. Flair in ‘92 would’ve been like if the Cavs played the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. What’s more, when Flair defended the WWF Championship against Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII in the Hoosier Dome it was another annoying case of the belt not going on last when it could have and probably should have. But whatcha gonna do, bruther?
Luger is one of the unlucky ones who has a Royal Rumble win (albeit a co-win with Bret Hart) under their belt, but again, not a WrestleMania main event. Now, I don’t think everyone that’s won the Royal Rumble should’ve gone on last at WrestleMania (see: Mr. McMahon), but I think it makes most sense for the winner of the Rumble to have earned that spot on the card.
Not only is Luger a WBF legend, but his career in WCW/NWA was incredibly significant, spending over a decade there compared to his two years with the WWF. Despite his short stay, Luger was very much in the mix at the top of the cards. The Lex Express could’ve rolled through Yokozuna and held the title for mere hours to drop the title Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania X, which would’ve most likely been better in the ring than Hart vs. Yokozuna. While I don’t much like this ping-ponging of the belt in one night, I think it would’ve been memorable for the 10th WrestleMania and good for Luger’s WWF resume. Yet another what-if? moment.
I know Sting is Mr. WCW, but hear me out. I’m going to contradict myself, but sometimes there are matches that are bigger than a championship, and thus involving a championship isn’t warranted. Remember the forgettable Undertaker vs A-Train and Big Show match from WrestleMania XIX in Seattle’s Safeco Field? What if instead of this, the Undertaker wrestled Sting in the main event?
I think this would’ve been a great time for it to happen, as they could’ve still had an awesome match. Its mere spectacle would have created such a frenzy that they’d barely have to do anything, anyway. And you just know that Vince would have Undertaker win, so the streak stays intact on this alternate timeline. Also, how great would the contrast be between the dark Sting entrance & Undertaker’s Limp Bizkit entrance?
Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio
I lumped these two together because their main event would’ve been against each other. Let me lay it out: Eddie Guerrero wrestled Rey Mysterio in the opener of WrestleMania 21 in the Staples Center. It was rumored that Eddie Guerrero was to win the World Heavyweight championship in late 2005 had he not passed away. Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble in 2006 (and yes, I know Eddie’s death is a big reason why). I know that this is unrealistic, but I think that had Guerrero not died untimely, and Mysterio had won the Royal Rumble anyway, the main event of WrestleMania 22 could’ve been Eddie Guerrero defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Rey Mysterio. This is another major what-if?, but both were more than worthy of a ‘Mania main event, and this would’ve been the best story for it. From their decade of friendship, their past feuds, classic matches, having a match in the prior year’s opener then closing the show a year later. The Allstate Arena would’ve ate this up and it could’ve been one of the great matches ever.
I think that if the Beth Phoenix of 2008 was in current-day WWE she would more than thrive. She was a serious wrestler who prospered when female talent wasn’t presented as they should’ve been. It’s hard to watch a lot of the segments that the ‘Divas’ were involved in from years gone by now in 2021. Imagine the Beth Phoenix of ten years ago wrestling talents like Sasha Banks, Asuka, Rhea Ripley, and Becky Lynch. Timing is everything, but it isn’t always on your side. I enjoy Beth’s commentary on NXT and her sporadic appearances in the ring, but I always think about what could’ve been. I do this with tons of wrestlers. It felt disrespectful to put the hideous Divas Championship on her. It felt disrespectful to make that belt in general. Try and tell me Beth Phoenix vs. Asuka couldn’t main event WrestleMania. Beth Phoenix vs. Charlotte Flair. Beth Phoenix vs. Bianca Belair. It’s frustrating to think about.
There was a solid period where AJ Lee was the most interesting part of WWE, by far. She was a true wrestler and a lifelong fan. While I get why, I do wish she didn’t retire when she did. She hung it up just before they renamed the Women’s Championship. We didn’t get to see AJ go at it with the current crop of talent. AJ Lee could’ve had great matches with Bayley, Sasha Banks, Shayna Baszler, or Candice LeRae, among others. Le wasn’t even 30 when she retired, which sucks, but the circumstances were just poor, plus shitty fans certainly didn’t help. It’s an injustice that out of 36 WrestleManias that there’s only been one main event with female wrestlers competing. We don’t know if AJ Lee was seen by the office as someone who could main event the year’s biggest show but I know she could have. If AJ came back she would earn such a big reaction, she would automatically be one of the biggest stars in the company. I know we’re taught to never say ‘never’ in wrestling, but I think the boat has unfortunately been missed.
For a considerable length of time, CM Punk was the most popular wrestler in the sport. His acclaimed ‘pipebomb promo’ catapulted him straight to top-dog status and became absolutely the guy in WWE.. While Punk was selling more merch than everyone, even John Cena, he still wasn’t number-one in the eyes of the company.
There was a two year window for Punk to be in the main event. WrestleMania XXVIII where he defended the WWE Championship against Chris Jericho in Miami, (the best match on the show) and WrestleMania 29 where he wrestled the Undertaker (also the best match on the show). Punk himself has stated how he should’ve main evented ‘Mania, A triple threat with John Cena and the Rock at 29, and I don’t want to disrespect the King but here’s a better idea, enjoy this surprise booking scenario.
Royal Rumble 2013: John Cena wins the Royal Rumble as he did. CM Punk retains the WWE Championship over the Rock with help from the Shield. Sorry.
Elimination Chamber 2013: John Cena loses in the trios match as he does. CM Punk retains the WWE Championship in a rematch over the Rock, this time when the Undertaker interferes in the match and chokeslams the Rock. Why does Undertaker attack the Rock? Maybe Dwayne verbally jabs the Undertaker in passing during a promo. I don’t know, just get there somehow.
WrestleMania 29: The Undertaker beats the Rock at WrestleMania, the Streak is still alive for Brock Lesnar to beat it next year. John Cena wins the WWE Championship from CM Punk in a main event match that is as good as their bout on the February 25 episode of Monday Night RAW, if not better.
- Owen Hart: Maybe vs. Bret for the title going on last at WrestleMania XI instead of Lawrence Taylor. Wild, I know.
- Booker T: If he was going to win the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H in Seattle, it should’ve gone on last.
- Jeff Hardy: It probably would’ve had to be at WrestleMania 25, maybe he could’ve added some life to the Triple H vs Randy Orton match that actually went on last.