Over the course of three weeks, Wade Keller welcomed Sam Roberts onto the WKPWP. The two took a look at the main events of each of the 33 WrestleMania’s to date and came to a decision on whether the match that finished the show was the right one to do so. They also discussed alternative options for each show. This is a rundown of the first half of those shows, from the first WrestleMania to X-Seven.
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff
Hogan was the centerpiece of the promotion at this point. Unlike with John Cena’s main event years where the company featured more of an ensemble cast, the WWF was strictly focused on Hogan as the main guy in 1985. This was the clear main event of the show.
Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd
Billed as a “Body Slam Challenge,” this was an attraction match, not a main event.
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a cage match
Wade says this was just a regular Hogan main event, not anything for the ages.
Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T
Sam feels there is a less weak argument to be made for Piper and Mr. T being the final match than Andre-Studd from a year earlier, but it’s still a weak case. Wade adds that this was a boxing match and they weren’t going to end with it.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Wade says it’s a little embarrassing to even be talking about another match given the magnitude of Hogan-Andre.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage
A lot of hype was put into this match, and Randy Savage was second to only Hogan in terms of star power. Wade feels this is the first time an argument could be made for an alternative match being put on top, but acknowledges it’s still a stretch. Sam likens Styles-Nakamura to this match at WMIII. The audience is smarter today and he could see an argument being made for sending the fans home happy by putting the show stealer on last, but he feels the same Hogan-Andre match in 2018 would still deserve the final spot.
Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase
Given that this show ran in a tournament format, it’s impossible to debate what would go on last. Hogan-Andre were guaranteed to have a Mania rematch since they were granted a bye to the quarterfinals, but it was never an option to go on last. Sam says it was odd to have Hogan-Andre in the middle of the card, but Hogan still got involved in the main event so that the show ending lived up to the standard of the time.
Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan
Wade feels this show should have headlined a WrestleMania and there was really no alternative in this case. Both agree this was the best option.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude
Sam thinks it would be cool for Rude to have gotten to headline a Mania. Wade says it’s remarkable how little Warrior moved throughout this match.
Jake Roberts vs. Andre the Giant
Wade remembers more about the lead up angles to this match more than pretty much any other one on the show.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior
Wade says this is one of those matches where you remember where you were. The shock of seeing Hogan lose was immense. No case for anything else on this card can be made. Sam says this is the last WrestleMania where, although the card was stacked, it was really a one-match show.
Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire vs. Randy Savage & Queen Sherri
This is the only other match that one could even attempt to make an argument for.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter
This match was controversial at the time due to it’s playing off of the first Iraq war. By the time we arrived at the show, Sam feels it would have been better served to be hidden in the middle of the card and downplayed.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage
Sam says this is the first match not to headline a Mania that should have. He says it’s undeniably Warrior’s best match ever and Savage’s best Mania match since Steamboat. He calls it a masterpiece. He takes it one step further and says if someone were to ask him in 2018 why he watches wrestling, he would show them this match. Wade agrees with Sam’s sentiments. He says if you could go back and edit the match order based on historical significance, this would close out the show.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
When asked if anything could have replaced this as the show closer, Sam jokes that Hogan-Flair could have. We then talk about the lost opportunity that was. The finish of this match was botched and made it so very little made sense.
Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage
A case could be made for this match being the main event. It was a World Championship match, and the company appeared to be going with Savage into the future, while Hogan was preparing to depart. Wade says he would flip the two matches.
Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna
The main event was actually Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna, but Hogan infamously ran in after the match and was awarded with an impromptu championship match against Yokozuna. Sam says the way it all unfolded made no sense.
Hogan & Beefcake vs. Money Inc.
Sam thinks it would have made for a better show with this match going on last. He fantasy books that Yokozuna could have jumped Hogan after the match, getting the same result. Wade notes that Hogan/Beefcake is no Hogan/Savage and says, though Sam’s point is good, there’s no way he could see this match going on last.
Lex Luger vs. Curt Hennig
Wade says this was considered a dream match just a few years earlier, but turned out to be a little asterisk for both men, as the match just didn’t work.
Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart
Sam says this was the first Mania where there was a story told throughout. Owen defeated Bret in the opener, only to close the show with Owen looking on as Bret’s championship win is being celebrated in the ring. Sam would not even consider not having this take place last.
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match
Wade says this was the best match of this era and ushered gimmick matches into the lexicon. Especially considering what both men went on to achieve, this was the proper match to go on last. Sam acknowledges this is the more historically significant match, but thinks given his thoughts on the Bret-Owen storyline, it would hurt the show to put this match on last.
Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Wade says this was the first time he could remember being shocked in the moment by the match order, naturally assuming the World Championship match would close the show. Sam recalls how much mainstream attention the WWF got for this match and says it was a huge story. He seconds Lawrence Taylor’s Mania involvement to only Mike Tyson’s. All that said, he feels Michaels-Diesel should have closed the show. Both he and Wade agree that the problem was Vince didn’t yet have confidence in Michaels. Wade is very much on the fence with this show. He goes over how important this match was to the show, but feels the company sent a bad message by placing the spotlight on a celebrity over the two biggest faces of their youth movement at the time.
Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel
Wade says, in hindsight, this was Mr. WrestleMania vs. Big Daddy Cool, the future founding member of the NWO. It’s difficult to fathom that it wouldn’t close the show.
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels 60-minute Iron Man Match
Both Wade and Sam agree that nothing else on the card touches this match’s main event status.
Undertaker vs. Diesel
At this time, the Undertaker was becoming a big enough star to headline a show, and not just be part of a gimmicky match going on second or third from the top. Wade feels this is the only possible alternative, though it’s not really close. Sam was a young Diesel fan at this time and says it was clear Diesel was going to lose.
Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid
Wade says the only case that could be made for this match going on last is that it was the World Championship match. Sam says this was a weak match, but it was the right call at the time. Wade points out the epic length of this match, running almost 24 minutes. He believes it lasted this long because the show was running short. Both agree ultimately this should have been the final match.
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
This is the most memorable match on the show. Sam thinks it’s unfair to make this call based on hindsight. Not until the following night on Raw did anyone have an idea this would be what it was. Wade gives this match 5-stars based on its historical significance. He rightfully considers the double turn to have been done masterfully. Sam closes by stating Austin had one of the most perfect runs ever over the course of three years. He wouldn’t mess with that for anything, that includes placing this match on the final spot of the show.
Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin
Both guys feel this is another no-brainer. It undoubtedly should have closed the show.
The Undertaker vs. Kane
It’s the only possible alternative, but it was a gimmick match and doesn’t deserve the main event spot.
The Rock vs. Steve Austin
Wade feels it would be a crime against wrestling history to have any other match headline this show. Sam agrees and says he wouldn’t touch it.
Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show
Wade’s second-guessing of this match is the fact that it’s a four-way match. He feels one-on-one matches should always close the show.
Hardys vs. Dudleys vs. Edge & Christian
Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho
Sam feels both these matches are the standouts of the show, but doesn’t think realistically you could argue at the time they deserved to headline WrestleMania.
The Rock vs. Steve Austin
Wade says this match had to headline the show. It was the start of the Stone Cold heel run. It was the best match on the show and historically significant.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H
At this point in their careers, Sam says there’s no way this match could headline the show.
Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon
We discuss the fact that this could’ve gone on last due to the storyline and how big it was made to feel, with Wade even noting we could have forgiven it today had it headlined, but neither person feel it should have.
Review: Let the record show, we stand at 14-3 following WrestleMania X-Seven, with the company getting the majority of the Mania main events correct, even when provided with decades of hindsight. The remaining shows will not be nearly as easy to assess.
I was surprised there was no mention of Bret Hart and Roddy Piper’s excellent Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania VIII. While I agree that Savage-Flair deserved the spot, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Bret would be headlining SummerSlam in London later that year defending his IC title. He would be crowned WWF Champion a short while later. I think it’s plausible that Hart-Piper could have headlined that Mania, in that the match itself was the best on the show. Throw in the fact that in could’ve helped propel Bret into the role he would soon have and I think it certainly belongs in the conversation.
This is a fun concept and completely enjoyable for those who enjoy pro wrestling history. Furthermore, a wrestling conversation between Wade and Sam is always a treat, regardless of the subject matter. The fact that we get to wait out the waning days until WrestleMania hearing them go over the previous shows makes it all the better.