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Ranking Every Wrestlemania Main Event - Part 4

Updated on June 16, 2016
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Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania III

Personally, this was a hard match to rank. Some old school fans may consider this blasphemy, but this match… is not that good. There’s a lot of rest holds and kind of awkward hitting. But even acknowledging that, I still LOVE this match! Yeah, it’s not a technical masterpiece, but I still mark out whenever Hogan bodyslams Andre. Being such an iconic match, it should be no surprise that this match appears on a ton of compilation DVDs, but I only enjoy watching it as part of Wrestlemnia III. The funny thing is these two actually had a better match at the Main Event when Andre won the World Tag Team Championship (his words, not mine) and forfeited it to Ted Dibiase. But that wasn’t a Wrestlemania main event and still featured nothing as iconic as Hogan bodyslamming Andre.

Austin vs. Rock I – Wrestlemania XV

According to Mick Foley’s second book, this match was SUPPOSED to be a triple threat pitting him against Austin and Rock. Ah, what could have been. (The funny thing is it’s Shawn Michaels’s fault that match didn’t happen – He insisted the match be one-on-one… but he championed Foley to be in the match.) I bring this up because their desire to give Foley the consolation prize of being the guest referee created a schmaltz with the referee business, one of the week points of this match. Austin hadn’t had his neck repaired yet so he was reduced to a lot of brawling… which he and the Rock were good at. Also, the no-DQ stipulation helped Austin cover up his injury. Even limited, Austin and Rock are two guys who could usually put on a solid match, and this was no exception – especially since they knew how to tell a story. Austin’s injuries and Russo’s bizarro-world booking may have kept this from being the all-time classic we’d see a few years later, but for my money it was a respectable match.

HHH vs. Cena – Wrestlemania 22

This is another great example of that classic McMahon hubris. This was about a year after what many fans and writers consider the “Reign of Terror.” Triple H had gone from holding the main event hostage, conducting never-ending promos and burying talent to a much more tolerable role as an upper mid-carder/lower main eventer. Unfortunately, he still decided to crowbar himself into the main event. Yeah, this is one of the few main events where there was no video package before the main event. Maybe it was to disguise the fact that these two had a pretty heatless feud (for Wrestlemania main event standards). Or maybe they were trying to hide the fact that the crowd was vehemently in favor of Hunter… Yeah, saying it out loud, that second part doesn’t make as much sense. For better or worse, that is what this match will forever be known for – the fans cheering heel Triple H and staunchly booing Cena out of the building (that and CM Punk being one of Cena’s mafiosos). The crowd reaction did rescue what could have been a heatless match. There’s a reason so few of these matches have featured the incumbent champion successfully keeping their title. Cena successfully defending the gold against HHH just wasn’t the catharsis that it would have been if Cena had reclaimed the gold against heel Edge. Even with that, HHH and Cena did have a pretty good match. Plus Edge not being in the main event gave us Edge vs. Foley. So you win some, you lose some.

Cena vs. Rock I – Wrestlemania 28

After what I said about Rock vs. Cena II, you might think I would dislike this match too. Au contraire. There is another reason that the sequel match fell on its face at 29 – Rock and Cena… They kind of used up their bag of tricks in this match. While not a 5-strar classic, The Rock and Cena did put on a worthwhile match. It’s rare that I’ll justify a grudge match being the headlining match at Mania, but this fits the bill. That alone is praise for this match. For better or worse, Rock and Cena meeting in a one-on-one match was a big deal… the first time. (Especially considering they headlined against Punk vs. Jericho.)

Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage – Wrestlemania 5

The match between Hogan and Savage is the kind of classic booking that makes me understand why oldschool fans fawn over this era the way they do. I think the fact that Hogan and Savage kept having matches years later in WCW tends to undercut just how important this match was. Hogan was the biggest name in the business, and Savage was big in his own right – often being cheered even when he ran as a heel. In a lot of these matches, we’ve seen how what seemed like a good idea at the time could fall on its face, but this match delivered. The beginning of this match shows Hogan delivering some surprising technical know-how, certainly more than he gets credit for. This was another rare instance of bleeding in the Hulkamania era – though this time it was simply a cut rather than Hogan blading himself. In his prime, Savage could always be counted on. Savage spent much of this match playing the vicious heel, but still showed his technical brilliance. A combination of classic storytelling, guys who could deliver in main events and two guys who certainly knew how to tell a story in the ring made this a classic main event from a classic era.

Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 14

This match is iconic for so many reasons. Going into the match, the participation of Mike Tyson brought a lot of mainstream publicity to the event – years before McMahon and company went for obnoxious publicity grabs on a nightly basis. Even more interesting, back then it was rare for celebrities to play the bad guy, but Tyson was one of the few people who could sell that role, joining DX and vowing to screw over Steve Austin. In an era defined by constant swerves, Tyson swerving DX and helping Austin win the championship was one of the best. On that note, Austin winning the WWF Championship for the first time was truly iconic. There have been plenty of classic world title wins, and plenty of iconic Wrestlemania moments in the last few years, but with so many top guys – Daniel Bryan, Edge, CM Punk – winning their first world title in micro-matches, I feel like some of the magic is gone (even if those were exciting moments). Even Jim Ross’s commentary on this match was iconic. One of his famous calls was “The Austin era has begun.” This is one of the few main events to feel like a true changing of the guard. I know it wasn’t planned that way – it was just a necessary evil after what was believed to be a career-ending back injury. By 1998, so many top stars had jumped ship to WCW. When Austin beat Michaels, it was time for a new era to begin.

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