Ranking Every Wrestlemania Main Event - Part 3
Rock vs. Big Show vs. Triple H vs. Mick Foley – Wrestlemania 2000
Ah Wrestlemania 2000 – good game, mediocre pay per view. Once again, the WWF booking team went for gimmicks over match quality. It wasn’t all bad news as this did give us a stellar triple threat ladder match and a worthwhile triple threat Intercontinental title match. Unfortunately, the gimmicks stretched to the main event. On paper, this sounds like a solid match – four worthwhile top men – the biggest babyface and the biggest heel in a no-DQ, elimination championship match. Unfortunately, this marred by the gimmick of a McMahon in every corner – because that’s what the audience cares about right? To be fair, this still ended up being a decent match. These guys kept the flow going, there were some cool spots and the crowd was invested. However, the McMahon hubris kept this from reaching the heights of greatness – not the last time THAT would happen. This was noteworthy for the first time a heel won at the main event of Wrestlemania. It had to happen sooner or later. Admittedly, that historical footnote helps add something noteworthy to a middling main event.
Check Out Parts 1 and 2 Here
Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter – Wresltemania VII
As much as I would like not to, it’s nigh impossible to talk about this match without discussing the horrendous buildup, and how it backfired horribly on McMahon. Allegedly, the match was supposed to Hogan vs. Warrior II. For whatever reason, McMahon decided to build a feud with Sgt. Slaughter as an Iraqi turncoat – replete with Slaughter even having a photo with him and Sadam Hussein. Interest in this match wasn’t quite what McMahon predicted and the company had to move to a smaller venue. Despite the ludicrous booking, the match was solid enough. It was classic storytelling with Slaughter paying the monst… wait haven’t we been here before? Hey, this time it was Hogan who bled – this was the milk and cookie days so blading was quite rare. I emphasize blading because if you pay attention, you can totally see Hulk Hogan blading himself in this match. Of course, not having Hogan vs. Warrior 2 did open the door for Savage vs. Warrior, noteworthy for being the Ultimate Warrior’s best match. Then again, by not having it here, it also opened the door for Hogan vs. Warrior 2 at Halloween Havoc 98, noteworthy for being Warrior’s worst match. Meanwhile Sgt. Slaughter would pursue a career as longtime apple polisher for Vince McMahon.
Hulk Hogan/Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff/Roddy Piper
Ah, the very first match to headline a Wrestlemania. Being the first of its kind, it is funny, looking at the kind of things they did here. Let’s get down to brass tacks – there will never be another tag team match that headlines Wrestlemania and we’ll never go another Wrestlemania where the world title isn’t up for grabs AT SOME POINT. In hindsight, it’s also kind of funny to think that the first main event of Wrestlemania ended with the GOOD GUYS scoring a tainted victory. Yeah, if you knew nothing about this match, I think most people would bank on Hogan landing the leg drop for the V, but he and Mr. T actually won when Bob Orton’s plan to nail Hogan backfired. This match is another example of a match that isn’t a technical classic but is still fun to watch. All four guys were men who could tell a story. Piper and Orndorff were legends of the industry who never achieved world title gold (and sadly, I think many of today’s fans will be lost on how talented Paul Ordorff was), but headlining the first Wrestlemania is something nobody will ever be able to take from them.
HHH vs. Chris Jericho – Wrestlemania X8
When it comes to putting a grudge match on over the world title at Mania, the WWF/E booking team really seems to zig when they should zag and zag when they should zig. Case in point, most people seem to agree this was the night Hogan vs. the Rock should have headlined Wrestemania. Much like other matches on this list, it seems that the main event had the rotten luck of having a tough act to follow. Sadly, other factors on lead to this match being underwhelming. Jericho vs. HHH is noteworthy for having one of the worst builds in Mania history. The whole feud was built on Jericho being a lackey for Stephanie McMahon. Ever wonder why there was no video package before this match? Yeah, clips of dogs defecating doesn’t exactly pump up crowds. (There was also the whole domestic abuse thing, but since they did have a video set to a live Saliva performance, they weren’t shying too much away from that one). And you know what? This match is actually not bad. Okay, it’s not great. The indifferent crowd wasn’t saving this one, but HHH and Jericho were reliable enough workers that they could work a solid match. If nothing else, at least Chris Jericho received the Wrestlemania headlining match he so rightfully deserved. It may have been a Pyrrhic victory, but he got it.
HHH vs. Batista – Wrestlemania 21
I’ve used the word serviceable to describe a lot of these matches, and I feel like it’s worth clarifying that there are different levels of serviceable. Some of these were serviceable as matches, while this serviceable as a Wrestlemania headliner. Did Hunter and Batista break any new ground? Not on this evening, but this is an example of them doing everything right. The feud going into the main event was brilliant with Batista winning the Royal Rumble and Hunter not wanting his cohort in Evolution to challenge his spot at the top. They worked old school storytelling with Hunter playing the perennial cheater and Batista playing the bad mofo trying to climb the mountain. Also, the spot where Batista sells Hunter’s low blow is always good for laughs. Rather than compare this to the better matches these two would have (especially their Hell in a Cell match), but I think it’s worth comparing this to the other matches on Wrestlemania 21. This was on the same card as the 5-star (in my book) classic Michaels vs. Angle and the excrutiatingly underwhelming Cena vs. JBL. This was in the middle.
Roman Reigns vs. HHH - Wrestlemania 32
I swear I’m not putting all these HHH matches in a row on purpose! As of this writing, this is the most recent Mania main event and one of the most controversial. I already reviewed this match in my rundown of the full event so I will do my best not to repeat myself. This was another amalgam of problems. Reigns was a contender that the fans did not support, HHH being in the world title picture reeked of the McMahon hubris, and to add injury to insult Wrestlemania 32 was already a show growing long in the tooth where very few fan favorites won. I’ve talked about Mania headliners that had little fan support, but all of these factors lead to a somewhat passive aggressive vibe for this match. Giving credit where it’s due, this match was good. I wouldn’t rank it this high otherwise. But it wasn’t the special match Trips and company were hoping for. Highlights included a wicked neckbreaker, Reigns spearing Hunter through the barricade and Reigns spearing Stephanie. But this match went MUCH longer than these two could handle together. Steve Austin brought up an excellent point about this match – by creating such a long match, it was supposed to Reigns over as a guy having an epic match, but instead it exposed that he doesn’t have enough tricks for 30 minute matches. I still suspect HHH felt pressured to top his match at Roadblock, but in that match, he had someone with a larger bag of tricks that fans support in Dean Ambrose.
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