In the world of sports entertainment, there is not a bigger event than WrestleMania. It's the one show every superstar wants to be on, the one show every wrestling fan and casual observer is sure to pay attention to each year.
And on the biggest show of the year, there is no better match to be involved in than the main event.
Over the years, while WWE has done a fine job booking multiple top showdowns on each of its WrestleMania cards, there should be no argument that the true "main event" at WrestleMania is the show's last match. You've of course heard of "saving the best for last." Well, that's how we decided which headline matches qualified for these rankings.
So with WrestleMania 32 set for Sunday, April 3 in Arlington, Texas, we thought it would be fun back at every WrestleMania main event and rank them from "average" to "immortal."
All matches were contested for the WWF/WWE/world heavyweight championship unless otherwise noted with an asterisk (*). Heavyweight champions entering the match are designated with (c).
31. WrestleMania VII -- Sgt. Slaughter (c) vs. Hulk Hogan: Playing off the Gulf War, the all-American Hogan went up against Iraqi sympathizer Slaughter, who somehow beat the Warrior for the world title months earlier. The match was totally predictable (the Iraq flag was involved, after all) and the in-ring action was about as hot as a frozen iced tea. Hogan (the American) won, of course. Notable: This was Bobby "the Brain" Heenan's first WrestleMania on commentary.
30. WrestleMania 2 (II) -- Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy (steel cage): What a horrible way to spend about 10 minutes of your life. Entertainment value was low and the in-ring action was embarrassingly bad. I mean, one of the "wrestling" moves in the match was a vicious scratch to the back! Unintentional comedy: Bundy was so rotund he had a hard time getting from between the ring ropes to exit the cage door. Hogan retained his title.
29. WrestleMania XI -- Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow*: Taylor showed off some short-area burst in the match, and it was cool to see all those NFL defensive legends at ringside supporting L.T. But outside of that, this match could be shown to fraternity pledges and be considered hazing. Let's remember that Diesel (c) vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWF championship was placed second-to-last as the lead-in to this match.
28. WrestleMania VIII -- Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice*: Slow and boring, this one had maybe the most awkward ending to a WrestleMania. Out of nowhere, voodoo maven Papa Shango (who had absolutely nothing to do with the build-up of this match) came out to the ring to help Sid attack Hogan. Why Shango? Who knows?! It was all done just to set up the grand return of the Ultimate Warrior and his Oliver-from-the-Brady Bunch haircut to save Hogan and make the world right again.
27. WrestleMania X -- Yokozuna (c) vs. Bret Hart: This might have been the most head-scratching finish for a WrestleMania main event. Yokozuna's finishing maneuver, the Banzai Drop, involved him stepping on the middle ropes before plowing his large bottom into his opponent laying on the mat. Theoretically, Yokozuna's done the move 1,000 times in the ring. So imagine his embarrassment when he somehow lost his footing going for the move against Hart and fell on his back, laying in shock for what seemed like hours. It was the opening Hart needed to pin him and win the title -- no additional offense necessary. How does this make sense? Why do I care so much 20-plus years later?
26. WrestleMania IX -- Bret Hart (c) vs. Yokozuna / Yokozuna (c) vs. Hulk Hogan: This debacle had so much unintentional comedy. Bret Hart lost when Yoko's manager, Mr. Fuji, threw salt in his eyes and was pinned immediately. Defeat by salt. Then Hogan, who had never supported Hart in his career, came out to protest the match and check on Hart. Fuji then decided on a lark to challenge Hogan to an impromptu match against his newly crowned protege. Fuji's speech here is gloriously off the cuff, by the way. He called Hogan a "yella belly." Anyway, with Hart's blessing, Hogan accepted Fuji's challenge and hopped in the ring. Trivia: Did you know "Macho Man" Randy Savage's hollering of "ding ding" on the broadcast has stood as the official bell for the match? Anyway, Fuji went for the salt almost immediately but made an oopsie and hit Yokozuna, which overwhelmed him. Is salt like that even legal in North America? Hogan beat Yokozuna with one eye -- did I mention Hogan had a black eye? -- in under 30 seconds. And the Las Vegas crowd in attendance loved every single second of it.
25. WrestleMania 21 (XXI) -- Triple H (c) vs. Batista: Batista fought his friend-turned-foe from Evolution and sent the crowd home happy with a win. But it's not like the match will be remembered for its incredible action. Hunter's Lemmy Kilmister-style mustache, however, is worth remembering. Batista came out of the match with the strap.
24. WrestleMania XIII -- Sycho Sid (c) vs. The Undertaker (no disqualification): A lot of the big-man main event WrestleMania matches aren't good by modern standards because they're slow paced. This one was slow, but the involvement of a bitter Bret Hart throughout the match made it tolerable. Taker eventually prevailed with the belt.
23. WrestleMania XXVII -- The Miz (c) vs. John Cena (only pinfalls, submissions): What's more amazing: The Miz in a WrestleMania main event or The Miz winning a WrestleMania main event? OK, fine, Miz held up his end of the bargain in the match, but he really turned out to be an afterthought since The Rock interfered, costing Cena the match and setting in motion the next two WrestleMania main events. Also of note: There was a false double count out finish. Could you imagine a main event match ending on a double count out? It's been five years, and I still want my money back.
22. WrestleMania III -- Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant: From a historical perspective, the match was huge. It packed the Silverdome in Detroit. From an entertainment standpoint ... meh. It's not like Andre, who was 40 at the time, could move around real well. Hogan retained his title.
21. WrestleMania XXIII -- John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels: A lot of silly stuff went into this match before it started, such as Cena and Michaels winning the tag team championship in advance of their title match. And Cena's entrance was also ridiculous as he drove through a glass partition into the arena. It took away from the in-ring portion of the show. Really, this all helped push Cena, who won via submission, into being the star of the next generation after he defeated Michaels' pal at the previous 'Mania.
20. WrestleMania XXII -- John Cena (c) vs. Triple H: Crazy to think Cena's theme music hasn't changed in a decade. Even crazier to recognize the "Let's Go Cena / Cena Sucks" chants were happening as far back as a decade ago. The match was all right, but it was basically a showcase to push Cena into superstardom as it was the third straight WrestleMania main event loss for Triple H. Trivia: One of the "gangsters" during Cena's entrance was CM Punk.
19. WrestleMania VI -- Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Ultimate Warrior: The first-ever 'Mania main event without a "bad guy" was pretty slow paced and built as a nip-and-tuck type of battle that Warrior barely won. Both men held titles entering the match with Hogan bringing in the WWF championship and Warrior the Intercontinental belt. The crowd on hand at the Skydome ate it up. The build-up and the story told here made the match better than it actually was. Also, kudos to the guy who managed to get "Hulkamania is going to run wild on the Ultimate Wimp" all on one sign. Warrior beat Hogan and held both titles.
18. WrestleMania XXV -- Triple H (c) vs. Randy Orton: The match couldn't keep up with the incredible build-up leading up to it. The stipulation that the title could change hands on a disqualification or count out kept the story interesting, but it also kept the mayhem rather minimal. Ultimately, Triple H prevailed and retained.
17. WrestleMania V -- "Macho Man" Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan: As you'll see for Wrestlemania IV, Savage made this match. Not only was he the most athletic, he also carried the storylines involved when it came to being a bad guy and hiding behind and yelling at Miss Elizabeth. It showcased why Savage was such a fantastic performer ... while Hogan won the title with the same, tired series of moves he always did.
16. WrestleMania 29 [NY/NJ] (XXIX) -- The Rock (c) vs. John Cena: Again, WWE did a fine job building toward this match as The Rock had beaten CM Punk for the world title and Cena had won the Royal Rumble to earn the right to face The Rock. It wasn't as good as their first meeting, which was dubbed "once in a lifetime" and yet here we were seeing this match for the second year in a row. But it was still a good match with Cena getting the best of The Rock.
15. WrestleMania XIX -- Kurt Angle (c) vs. Brock Lesnar: It didn't take too long for Lesnar to make his ascension Austin-style to the main event of WrestleMania. It also didn't take long for Angle to make the main event either. In this case, it was a battle of two accomplished amateur wrestlers in a sports entertainment setting. As such, this was more about the in-ring action than anything else, and Lesnar proved the better man that night.
14. WrestleMania 2000 (XVI) -- Triple H (c) vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show (four-way elimination): This was the first -- and last -- match of its kind for the title. It was a good time but there were a lot of extraneous distractions that kept it from being as good as it could have been. It also ended WrestleMania with a bad guy winning and retaining his title, something that hadn't ever happened before. Side note: It's amazing to go back and look at Stephanie McMahon then versus Stephanie McMahon now.
13. WrestleMania IV -- "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase: The finale of a tournament for the vacant world title, it that was supposed to push Savage as the company's next great star. Less than a minute into the match, the crowd started chanting for Hulk Hogan to stand in Savage's corner (Andre the Giant was in DiBiase's corner). And Hogan did just that, helping Savage win. Savage made this match. Sitting ringside? Donald Trump, whose view had to have been blocked by Andre for much of the match.
12. WrestleMania I -- Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff*: The spectacle around this match -- The Rockettes dancing, Liberace as the timekeeper, Billy Martin as the ring announcer, Muhammad Ali as an enthusiastic outside referee -- combined with the hot crowd in 1985 at Madison Square Garden dressed up the match better than it really was. Still, it was the first, and one of the best all things considered.
11. WrestleMania XXVIII -- The Rock vs. John Cena*: I can say from experience that Sun Life Stadium was on fire for this match -- the build-up was so, so good. And both guys delivered in a major way. It was mesmerizing watching The Rock back in a WWE ring -- in his hometown after all -- following such a long absence. But the finish -- Cena going for the People's Elbow and The Rock countering with his finishing move -- was a little predictable. Still, a good match and a very good time.
10. WrestleMania X8 (XVIII) -- Chris Jericho (c) vs. Triple H: There's no doubting the effort from Hunter and Jericho, two very talented superstars who told a good story in the match (Triple H legitimately tore his quad in a match against Jericho nearly a year earlier and worked his way back). It also was one of the rare times where Hunter and Stephanie McMahon weren't on the same side. And anyone who tells you the crowd wasn't into this match is lying. Triple H defeated Jericho for the belt.
9. WrestleMania XXIV -- Edge (c) vs. The Undertaker: Kind of crazy that this was only the second WrestleMania main event match of The Undertaker's career. Also crazy: WWE had Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the card in an attempt to draw mainstream coverage but not in the main event. Instead, Taker extended his then-undefeated WrestleMania streak against a very hard-working Edge with a submission win. The two put on a heck of a match.
8. WrestleMania 31 -- Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins): For two big guys, Lesnar and Reigns put together a pretty strong match on their own. Writing in Rollins to cash in his Money in the Bank title shot contract during their main event match, suddenly making it a triple threat affair, only made things more interesting. If anything, last year's main event is proof of two things: Reigns can legitimately work an interesting match, and WWE will come up with something fun for its title contest. Rollins left with the title and sustained a run only ended due to injury.
7. WrestleMania XXX -- Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (triple threat): There's no doubt that Bryan -- and the fans' demand for him -- made this match special. Give the brass at WWE credit for putting Bryan in a position to perform in and win over two guys who weren't quite as powerful (or as exciting to watch in the ring). They truly did listen to its audience in this instance and the finish was fantastic with Bryan going over with the win.
6. WrestleMania XX -- Triple H (c) vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels (triple threat): The match had plenty of good in-ring action and drama. The pace managed to stay pretty strong because three great superstars could take turns carrying the contest. At the time, the finish of the match went over well with the crowd. This was the first WrestleMania main event decided by submission as Benoit came out on top.
5. WrestleMania XV -- The Rock (c) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: The year before, Austin's meteoric rise put him in the main event. This time around, it was The Rock who took the fast track to the main event against Austin. As was the state of the business at this time, chaos ensued, including Mr. McMahon interfering and Mick Foley (as Mankind) acting as an impromptu referee. It was fun as hell, and Austin took the title.
4. WrestleMania XII -- Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels (iron man match): Arguably one of the best wrestling matches in WrestleMania history. (It was certainly the best among the first 12 WrestleManias.) Everyone from wrestling historians to aspiring sports entertainers have watched and reviewed and analyzed this match for everything in it. If there's a downside, it's that it lasted over an hour (it went to sudden death with a 1-0 finish for Michaels), though some will argue that's a good thing.
3. WrestleMania XXVI -- The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (streak vs. career, no disqualification)*: You knew going into the match that Michaels would put everything he could on the mat since he was fighting for his career. When they were in the ring, there were power moves and counter moves, and when they were out of the ring, they put their bodies on the line. It was two members of the old guard showing the new guard how to do it right at WrestleMania. Among many other non-main events, this went to prove Michaels was deserving of the nickname "Mr. WrestleMania." It was also his last wrestling match as he lost and Taker's streak continued.
2. WrestleMania X-Seven (XVII) -- The Rock (c) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (no disqualification): Emanating from the Houston Astrodome and in front of an electric crowd of nearly 70,000 people, this edition of Austin-Rock was a battle of two "good guys" ... at least until Mr. McMahon had his way. But Austin and The Rock both worked their tails off: They bled, used a number of finishing moves (including each other's) and kept an aggressive pace for the better part of 30 minutes before Austin was ultimately victorious.
1. WrestleMania XIV -- Shawn Michaels (c) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: As far as storytelling goes, this was WWE at its best. That's not to say any less about the match itself as Austin and Michaels were just as athletic as they were charismatic. Mike Tyson as the outside ring enforcer-turned-referee was a page out of the original WrestleMania handbook as it generated a ton of publicity, though this time Tyson was a very big part of the build-up to the match. Austin's win over Michaels basically kicked down the door of the uber-popular "Attitude Era."
CBS Sports will be offering full coverage of WrestleMania 32 leading up to and during the show on Sunday, April 3. WrestleMania 32 is available on pay-per-view and WWE Network, which is free for new subscribers.