19. Hulk Hogan vs Macho Man Randy Savage (WrestleMania V)
The clash of the Mega Powers! The WrestleMania V main event was another early WrestleMania main event that wasn’t much to write home about, but one thing it did have was legs. The main event for WrestleMania V was unofficially booked at the conclusion of WrestleMania IV when Savage won the WWF Championship to close out the night with the aid of Hogan. For the next year the two would tag team and feud with Dibiase and The Giant until conflict would surface between the two. With both guys being pretty popular with fans, the WWF needed to turn one heel and it unsurprisingly went with Savage, who despite being the champion, was not as over with the fans as Hogan. When the two finally collided, it was a case of excellent booking with a good pay-off, the type of thing that doesn’t really happen in today’s world of short attention span fans. As I alluded to at the start, the match itself was rather poor. Savage was a real in-ring talent, but there was nothing he could really do to elevate Hogan and the match ended up being a typical Hulk Hogan match.
18. Triple H vs Batista (WrestleMania XXI)
Batista was a real throw-back superstar. The only things separating him from guys like Hogan and The Warrior were tattoos and a crew cut. He had the look of the behemoth and the grace to match. His matches never did much for me and this encounter with Triple H was a dud. The two would go on to have better match-ups centered more around gimmicks (maybe someone realized a straight wrestling match just wasn’t playing to their strengths), but never any real classics. Triple H has also been a pretty good worker and he has the reputation of being a technical wrestler. Personally, I’ve always felt his reputation was forced. Great technical wrestlers can elevate their opponents and find a way to have good matches, I don’t think Triple H has ever been that guy and he certainly wasn’t able to pull a good match out of Batista at WrestleMania XXI.
17. The Undertaker vs Sycho Sid (WrestleMania XIII)
This is a match that really has no business being as good as it is. That’s not to say it’s a classic by any means, but before I sat down to re-watch it recently after all of these years I was expecting the worst. My preliminary thoughts on this list had this match coming in at around number 27 or so, but here it is at 17. Sid Justice, at the time going as Sycho Sid, is not much of a wrestler. He was a big guy and could do some big moves, but when it came to selling a match he was awful and that part of his game is on display in this one. Despite that, there were some good moments and he and Undertaker were able to tell a pretty decent story. By contrast, Undertaker has always been a big guy who was a plus worker, a hard combination to find, and both guys aren’t so big that they can’t take each other’s big moves and make them look good. The match does suffer from too many interruptions (I’m not sure if Sid was balking at losing clean to Undertaker or if the Brett Hart run-ins were just meant to setup a new feud), but otherwise is solid entertainment.
16. Triple H vs John Cena (WrestleMania XXII)
With these last few matches, we’ve entered into the part of the list where the matches aren’t bad matches, but they’re not exactly main event at the biggest show of the year quality matches. This is another match that kind of surprised me when I watched it recently. I’m not a John Cena fan. Like Batista, he’s a throwback to the eighties. He’s a superman like Hogan was where he’ll take a beating and then suddenly kick-out of a big move and hit his finisher for the win. He’s an attraction as he was in his match with Big Show years earlier where he got the giant up onto his shoulders. This match though is a pretty hard hitting affair with some good pacing (after a slow start). It’s nothing to write home about, but the fact that it’s not one of the worst matches is an accomplishment I wasn’t sure it would have.
15. John Cena vs The Miz (WrestleMania XXVII)
As a match, this one is probably worse than the previous two. I’ve already shared my thoughts on Cena, but The Miz is no better. He’s Cena without the look. As a heel, which he was at the time of this match, he was pretty good at getting heat. In the ring though he’s sloppy, lacks polish, and has a pedestrian arsenal. The build-up to this match though had almost nothing to do with The Miz, who was actually the champion heading into WrestleMania! No, the storyline centered around John Cena and the host of WrestleMania XXVII: The Rock. When The Rock returned to Monday Night Raw he almost immediately began picking a fight with John Cena. Their feud would carry over into the next year’s WrestleMania, especially after The Rock played a role in the outcome of this match between Cena and The Miz, and it’s the buzz that surrounded this match that helps elevate it. Otherwise, this was a main event more befitting of Raw than WrestleMania.
14. Hulk Hogan vs André the Giant (WrestleMania III)
In terms of build-up and anticipation, there is no equal when it comes to Hogan vs The Giant. This is the main event that shattered the all-time attendance record and would stand for a long, long time. The Giant was a huge attraction and was billed as being undefeated over his career. Hogan was Hogan, the biggest current attraction in the wrestling world. André had also never wrestled for the championship, mostly because promoters didn’t need him to and allowed for them to have two big matches on a card: an André the Giant match, and a world championship match. Of course, come 1987 André was a shell of his old self and nearing the end, and Hogan was…well, I think I’ve ripped on him enough at this point. This match is awful. The Giant can barely move and Hogan is forced to try to sell his limited offense. The only part of the match worth watching is “The Slam” at the end. That was a huge moment and the crowd reaction sells it perfectly. If this were a list of best moments from a WrestleMania main event, that would be the easy choice for number one. It’s a big enough moment that it elevates a garbage match up to number 14, which isn’t too bad if you ask me. It was one Hell of a slam.
13. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIV)
Transitioning from the original mega stars of wrestling to perhaps two of the biggest in recent memory, here we have a match that really could have been something special. It is special, but only because it marked the first time Austin won the WWF Championship and the added Mike Tyson factor at ring-side. Unfortunately though, this was when Michaels was in tremendous pain following a serious back injury at Royal Rumble. The injury would force him into retirement for four years before a comeback, but during the match it’s clear that Michaels isn’t right. Some of it is a sell-job since play-by-play man Jim Ross wasn’t hiding the fact that Michaels was hurt, but a lot of it is legit discomfort. Because of this, the match is real slow-paced with lots of rest holds and a feeling of restraint throughout. It’s disjointed, but the finish was strong and the crowd certainly didn’t seem to mind once Austin hit the stunner. Still, it’s hard to watch this and not wonder what could have been.
12. John Cena vs The Rock (WrestleMania XXIX)
The most recent main event, and part two of the Cena/Rock feud (unless you count their confrontation at WrestleMania XXVII as part one, then it’s part three) and at this point it was starting to run out of steam. As much as people loved The Rock, myself included, it was hard to disagree with Cena’s assertions that at least he was a full-time wrestler, unlike The Rock. The Rock was coming off as disingenuous, but he was still making people laugh. In the ring though, it was becoming clear that Rock wasn’t the same guy as he was years ago, which is understandable. This version of The Rock was really bulky, and since he wasn’t a full-time wrestler, he really didn’t have the stamina to carry a one-on-one match. The two made it work the prior year, but come WrestleMania XXIX it was clear they were out of ideas as both guys resort to hitting their signature moves over and over. Having a wrestler kick out of another guy’s big move can be a really effective way to sell the enormity of a match, but three times? Four times? It just loses impact. In defense of The Rock, he did get injured during the match which may have affected his performance. The enormity of the feud and star power of the characters is what elevates this match to this spot, not the in-ring performance.