WWE – The Best Of Wrestlemania Main Events (Cert 15)
2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 376 minutes approx.
Release Date: July 19th
Another WWE home media release with the word “best” in the title means more eye rolling and questioning the choices of the compilers and their definition of “best, this time pertaining to the exclusive big money matches that closed the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania!
Of course, this is purely subjective and in cases of making money, like this, the picks are either arbitrary or governed by their legendary status in the annals of WWE history over their actual quality as much as their position in the final spot of the night is often a poetic honour than an earned one, which also exposes the fact so many Wrestlemania main events were eclipsed by other matches on the card .
Hosted by somebody named Matt Camp (no, me neither) who appears about three times over the course of the whole programme, this is pretty much a cherry picked cash-in of matches you no doubt will already have in some form or another whether it is on the PPV or a previous compilation.
Some of the later matches have already been covered in the reviews for their respective Wrestlemania home media releases, so the to save repeating myself, the bulk of my waffle will relate to the older matches. Anyway, let’s get on with it!
Wrestlemania 3 – March 29th 1987 – WWF Title Match – Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre The Giant
A case in point for being a legendary match and not a great one, it is interesting to look back at the build up for this classic bout and the backstage happenings behind it. At one point, it was unsure if Andre would be able to work the match having just come off back surgery, and it has been rumoured that the back-up plan was Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff (who passed away a few days before this review was written), but Orndorff had a neck injury which is why he was eventually absent from the card after coming off a red hot, big box office feud with Hogan.
Of course, Andre was able to work the match but it was feared that he might not want to put Hogan over as planned – by Hogan naturally. This is ironic since Hogan never put anyone over unless it was under dodgy circumstances to keep his heat, and apparently Hogan didn’t know until Andre gave him the nod to slam him during the match that he was going over.
The slam was one of the big selling points of this match as the narrative during the build up was that Andre had never been slammed. This was completely untrue of course as many wrestlers had slammed Andre – including Hogan when they faced off on a WWF card at Shea Stadium in 1980! The other claim was that Andre had been undefeated for 15 years, also false but at this point, most wrestling was still regional and Vince knew he could hoodwink WWF fans who wouldn’t have seen any of the other territories to call him out on his BS.
Storyline wise, this match came about when Andre was awarded a statue for being the top WWF Superstar but when he came to accept it, Hogan burst into the ceremony on Piper’s Pit and accepted it on Andre’s behalf! It’s funny how all of Hogan’s big feuds began with him being a total dick to his friends yet they ended up being the heels! Anyway, Andre stormed off the set feeling a bit cheesed off, then the following week returned to the Pit, this time with Bobby Heenan in tow and challenged Hogan for the title at Wrestlemania 3, punctuating his heel turn by ripping Hogan’s T-shirt and crucifix off of him.
Luckily, the hype worked and 93, 173 fans (or 78,000 if you are Dave Meltzer) packed the Pontiac Silverdome to witness Hulk slam Andre and successfully defend his title. Hogan always claims he worked the match out spot for spot until the finish which he left up to Andre. This was a rare occasion of Hulk carrying a match as Andre was on his last legs, yet somehow eked out his WWF career for another three years despite being largely immobile, finally calling quits after a tag match in Japan in 1992.
Wrestlemania 12 – March 31st 1996 – WWF Title Iron Man Match – Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
Quite a jump here – nine years in fact – when surely Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior from WM 6 should be here unless they wanted to limit Hogan’s appearances on this list. The first televised Iron Man Match, there had been a few on house shows, some were 30 minutes, others an hour, or they simply went to a 60 minute draw, like the famous Bret vs. Ric Flair house show match in 1992 which is believed to have never been filmed.
Much like Hogan vs. Andre, this was supposed to be a passing of the torch moment as Bret was going to take some time off and HBK was red hot after his face turn and big injury angle at the end of 1995. Interestingly, when the match was first planned in late 1995, the legendary Cowboy Bill Watts was working for the company, a surprise considering how he tanked WCW a few years earlier. When Vince McMahon said he was thinking of making Shawn WWF champion, Watts argued that Michaels wasn’t credible and Bret should stay champion.
Shortly after this, Watts was put in charge of the booking and was told by Vine McMahon he would have complete autonomy, but at the very first time Watts made a decision, Vince overruled him, so Watts quit. One wonders if Watts was still there come 1996 and still had some influence whether the result would have been different.
A rather overrated match, the idea sounded good on paper with two great workers in it, but was hampered by the fact Vince didn’t want Shawn to lose any falls before winning the title as it would have made him look weak, and Bret obviously wasn’t going to be pinned multiple times in one night either, so they had to go the full hour without a fall and then go into overtime. This made the match quite dull as they had to pad out the big spots and couldn’t do any near falls, plus the fans expected as much since they knew it was going an hour and many left the building before it finished.
Bret storming out of the arena afterwards as shown on WWF TV was portrayed a shoot but was clearly a work, except it was a shoot because the moment the ref counted three for the winning pinfall, Shawn is supposed to have said to Bret “Now get the **** out of my ring!” which upset the Hitman. Maybe Watts was right after all.
Wrestlemania 17 – April 1st 2001 – WWF Title No DQ Match – The Rock (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Another big jump to the start of the current millennium and the two biggest stars of the fabled Attitude Era face off for the second at Wrestlemania (the first was at WM 15 in 1999) but this was the latest in a storied feud between the two. This time both were babyfaces which made a difference, but Austin had just come back from a year away due to neck fusion surgery and having won the Royal Rumble, was now chasing The Rock, who won the WWF title at No Way Out 2001.
The backstage story here was that Rock was due to make his Hollywood starring debut in The Scorpion King so getting the belt of him was paramount. Austin had wanted to do something to freshen his character up and a heel turn was suggested but for reasons known only to Vince, he felt it should happen during this match, with the ultimate slap in the face being Austin aligning with Vince, which made no sense after their epic feud.
But that wasn’t the only problem – Wrestlemania 17 was held in Houston, Texas, Austin’s home state! Not only where the fans behind him 100% before the match, they were with him when he got violent with The Rock during the match, raising the roof when Austin scored the win and the title. The pairing with Vince didn’t get over as heelish because they fan loved Austin too much and even though other towns and cities would boo Austin he still remained popular enough that he could switch back to a face with no redemption required which is what happened in November 2001 after the ill-fated Invasion ended.
Wrestlemania 19 – March 30th 2003 – WWE Title Match – Kurt Angle (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
Just a two year skip this time, to a match that is both infamous and great to boot. The amateur credentials of Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle meant a dream match waiting to happen, and oddly the plan was to first turn Lesnar face and Angle heel to set it up, in a reversal of their then current roles. I doubt anyone would have minded if they didn’t change but you know, Vince gotta Vince.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks before the show, Angle suffered a neck injury as was going to need surgery which would have meant the planned Wrestlemania main event was off. They even went as far as to run the match on Smackdown as a way to get the belt off Angle and then have someone else (rumoured to have been Chris Benoit) face Lesnar for the title at Mania.
Instead, Angle was able to gut it a bit longer and put the surgery off until after the PPV, so the TV match became a brilliant swerve in which Angle was secretly replaced by his brother Eric and Lesnar pinned him quickly with an F5 for the apparent win, only for Kurt to sneak up and score the real win after the ruse was exposed. Even if Angle’s injury was a work, this was a great way to draw heat for the match.
And what a great match it was too, the first WM main event in a long while where they actually wrestled and didn’t just brawl. However, it will forever be remembered for the botched SSP from Brock, a move he had done many times before in OVW (where he was trained) but never on WWE TV. Unfortunately, Brock slipped as he leapt off the top turnbuckle and couldn’t get the full revolution of his body in midair, and ended up landed on his head rather than his stomach. A scary as hell bump, he quickly recovered and won the match with an F5, but backstage Brock was knocked loopy but the botch didn’t do any lasting damage, but it did mean no more SSPs.
Wrestlemania 23 – April 1st 2007 – WWE Title Match – John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
It’s a shame the main event for Wrestlemania 20 had to be skipped over for inclusion in this collection as it was a bona fide great match, but WWE have retrospectively erased it from their history so what can you do?
So we take another leap forward in time by five years and at this point Cena had been WWE champ for a whole year; nobody could dethrone him, and the fans continued to hate him. The previous year, Triple H failed to beat Cena and was set to get the rematch here but he injured his quad again at the New Year’s Revolution PPV in January when giving Edge a Pedigree through the announce table.
Leaving Cena without an opponent, HBK was given the spot, a logical choice since he and Triple H were partners in DX at the time. With fans tiring of Cena as champ and the fact he had beaten everyone, it seemed almost inevitable HBK might be the one to end his title reign. Then again, it was also a case of trying to make Cena credible with the fans by defeating another legend like Shawn.
Not a very creative build up, by having Shawn and Cena be tag champs after defeating Rated RKO in a mini feud in which the heels teased Shawn’s history of turning on his tag partners. This meant there was no tag title match at ‘Mania that year, instead the two champions would face each other in a first for the event, although for Cena’s WWE Title only.
But Cena was selling merchandise hand over fist and we all know how Vince likes to milk his golden cows until they are empty, so Cena retained the title, then went onto begin his interminable feud with Randy Orton which I think is still going on to this day. Would Triple H have beaten Cena on his second attempt? I guess we’ll never know.
Wrestlemania 24 – March 30th 2008 – WWE World Title Match – Edge (c) vs. The Undertaker
Remarkably this is only the second time Undertaker has headlined Wrestlemania, the first being WM 13 in 1997, where he challenged Sycho Sid for the WWF title and won. Would lightning strike again for the Deadman, or would his legendary streak end at the hands of the Rated R Superstar?
This feud actually began a year earlier when Edge cashed in his second MITB briefcase on Taker after he had just defeated Batista in a steel cage match on Smackdown. Taker actually had a bicep injury and needed time off, so the Batista feud transferred to Edge, then when that was over, Edge and Kane fought over the title. Edge was then injured, so the title was vacated and eventually ended back with Batista who resumed his feud with Taker but it was Edge who won the title again in a triple threat match with both men.
Determined to get revenge, Taker then won an Elimination Chamber match to earn this title shot, but Edge had now formed his own group, La Familia (Chavo Guerror Jr, Zack Ryder and Kurt Hawkins) and used the numbers advantage to keep Taker at bay – well, that was the plan anyway.
Solid match that had to follow the emotional retirement match for Ric Flair (or not as the case may be, he wrestled again in TNA two years later) after he lost to HBK, but it would probably be best remembered for ref Charles Robinson having to sprint to the ring all the way down the long ramp that covered half the stadium after a ref bump to count a pinfall cover following a Tombstone on Edge.
Wrestlemania 26 – March 28th 2010 – Streak vs. Career – The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Having stolen the show the year before and unwittingly sabotaged the main event so Triple H and Randy Orton in their millionth match couldn’t follow it while the crowd were burned out, the rare move to close ‘Mania with this non-championship rematch was afforded to spare everyone else from suffering the same fate.
Since the first match was based on respect, the ante was upped for this one when HBK made the challenge to Taker after winning a Slammy for Match of the Year, but Taker said it was over. Annoyed by this, HBK swayed Taker by costing him the World Title at Elimination Chamber that year, with Taker accepting on the proviso that Shawn retire if he loses again. Which he did on both counts (again, sort of, as he had one more match in 2018 in Saudi Arabia, the disastrously bad tag match with Triple H against Kane and Taker!) and they stole the show again to boot!
Wrestlemania 30 – April 6th 2014 – WWE World Heavyweight Title Triple Threat Match – Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan
Originally reviewed HERE
Wrestlemania 31 – March 29th 2015 – WWE Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Originally reviewed HERE
Wrestlemania 35 – April 7th 2019 Winner Takes All Smackdown & Raw Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Originally reviewed HERE
So there you go. Obviously, by specifying this is about the best main events and not just Wrestlemania matches in general leaves the pool of choices limited to just 36 matches (at the time), and the risk of repetition and overlap with similarly themed releases is inevitable. Not the most misleading of curated titles from WWE Home Video but discussions will be had over the legitimacy of some inclusions rather than complaints about their quality.
Not an especially essential addendum to your DVD collections in lieu of the lack of fresh content only the convenience of having these matches in the one place.
Rating – ****
Man In Black