Every sport has to have that one event that every fan wants to see, every competitor wants to appear at, and every writer wants to write extremely long articles about. Wrestlemania fits every single one of those categories. Other wrestling companies may have tried to copy Wrestlemania but they've never succeeded. It's time to look back at the history of the granddaddy of them all, Wrestlemania.
The story of Wrestlemania probably goes back to the day when Vince McMahon finally acquired the WWF from his father. The days of working alongside the many other wrestling companies in the States were at an end. Vince had big ideas for the WWF and if that meant wiping out the opposition by getting their TV deals and their wrestlers, then so be it.
Vince wanted to expand the WWF and that began with the signing of Hulk Hogan. He had a new vision of what wrestling should be, it was going to be sports entertainment, Vince was quoted as saying: “What we do is entertainment, and it's the highest level of athleticism and entertainment you'll ever see.....we have the athleticism of sport and the entertainment of a soap opera.”
With his chosen star now champion and his all-star roster in place, Vince had everything he needed to start those expansion plans. Wrestlemania I was held on March 31 1985 at Madison Square Garden. It was also on closed-circuit television (PPV wasn't born yet). But Vince wasn't just interested in staging a wrestling event, he wanted it to be something that would appeal to more than the avid wrestling fan. He wanted an event that was full of celebrities, big names like Muhammad Ali, Liberace Mr T and Cyndi Lauper.
If Wrestlemania I was the culmination of that dream, then MTV was the supplier of the qualifying matches so to speak. Cyndi Lauper was signed up to appear alongside Capt. Lou Albano (hence his appearance in her ‘Girls Just Wanna have fun video), Roddy Piper, Wendi Richter and The Fabulous Moolah. A feud began and when shows were placed on MTV programming the ratings went through the roof. ‘The War to Settle The Score' was at that time the highest rated programme ever seen on the channel.
The success of the MTV shows proved to Vince that he had a potential goldmine on his hands. It was Howard Finkel who came up with the name, creating a brand name that would become known all over the world.
Madison Square Garden just had to be the venue. The McMahon family had been promoting there for decades. The show was promoted like never before, there were press conferences and the shows stars appeared on every talk show on the air. Headlining the card was Hogan and Mr T against Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Ordnorff with Muhammad Ali as a special referee and Liberace as time-keeper. But success wasn't guaranteed, early ticket sales were slow and the WWF had a lot of money to pay to the 200 theatres that would be showing the event. One appearance by Hogan almost single-handedly ensured the event would be a success. He appeared on the talk show ‘Hot Properties' and put host Richard Belzer in a headlock, a headlock that caused him to lose consciousness and cut his head when he fell to the floor. It might have cost the company a few damages to pay later but it put the WWF in the headlines and that ensured a successful debut for Wrestlemania.
There were nine matches on the card. Andre The Giant beat Big John Studd winning $15,000 by body-slamming the huge wrestler (who hated the way his sport was now being promoted). The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff ensured racism was present at the Garden, David Sammartino made an appearance but could never live up to his father's reputation. King Kong Bundy squashed S.D. Jones in a minute and Wendi Richter (managed by Cyndi Lauper) won the women's title from Leilani Kai (managed by The Fabulous Moolah). Valentine, JYD, Steamboat, Windham, Rotundo and Santana guaranteed an all-star card but this was all about one match and one man. Hogan and Mr T won their match against Piper and Orndorff and a legend was born.
Creating a legend isn't easy, maintaining its reputation is even harder. The success of Wrestlemania ensured there'd be a follow-up in 1986, but Wrestlemania 2 was a very different event.
Vince came up with the idea of holding Wrestlemania in three different cities across the States. Each would have a one-hour show with two hours from the other venues shown on a big screen. LA, Chicago and New York were chosen for the venues and the number of celebrities being involved was even larger this time around.
Again Hogan was in the main-event, this time defending his WWF Title in a cage against King Kong Bundy, managed by Bobby ‘The Brain' Heenan. Making his debut at Wrestlemania was Randy Savage, the IC Champ defended his title against the crazy George ‘The Animal' Steele, who was madly in love with the late Miss Elizabeth. In perhaps Britain's greatest Wrestlemania moment The British Bulldogs beat Valentine and Beefcake to win the tag titles, while the legendary Moolah retained her Women's Title against Velvet McIntyre, it was her only in-ring match at Wrestlemania despite still being with the company to this day.
There were 12 matches this time around and the celebrities were everywhere you looked in each of the three cities holding the event. Mr T returned to Wrestlemania for a boxing match with Roddy Piper, not that Piper stuck to boxing. Joe Frazier and Lou Duva were in the competitor's corners. The 20-man Battle Royal was won by Andre but the big interest was in the use of players from the NFL – perhaps that's a way to get Lesnar back next year?
Also appearing were Joan Rivers, Susan St James, Cab Calloway and even Ozzy Osbourne! But despite all the stars, the focus was again on Hogan. His ribs sore, he took a battering but face it he was never going to lose was he? Over 50,000 people saw the event live, and over 300,000 watched on close-circuit TV and PPV but the idea of splitting the event into three arenas was never to be repeated again.
Wrestlemania III had the logo ‘bigger, better and badder' and it certainly was. The use of roman numerals began, mimicking the Superbowl. The main event was probably the most eagerly-awaited wrestling match of all-time. Andre the Giant was a great fan favourite but had never held any titles in the WWF. He was Hogan's best friend but this is wrestling and friendships never last. Influenced by Heenan (yes him again), Andre turned heel on Hogan and demanded a WWF Title match. Andre was way past his best and his back needed surgery but this was a match guaranteed to sell tickets by the bucket load.
It was decided to hold Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. The attendance was given as 93,173, the largest ever indoor attendance. The fact that fans in Michigan weren't able to see the match on PPV certainly helped fill the arena. 11 matches on the card this time, all totally over-shadowed by Hogan v Andre and there were a few notable disasters that have to be recalled. There was the midgets match with Bundy and Hillbilly Jim. Poor Bundy, from main-eventer to being attacked by midgets in a year!
Roddy Piper had a retirement match, or as it should have been put ‘I'm off to Hollywood and I won't be back.' Piper was back and even appeared at Wrestlemania XIX. There was one classic match on the card with Ricky Steamboat winning the IC belt from Randy Savage. That started a phase where wrestlers lost IC belts then won the big one the next year, Warrior did the same the following year. There were managers left, right and centre with Mr Fuji, Jimmy Hart, Slik, Miss Elizabeth and Heenan in three matches. The celebrities were back as well with Alice Cooper alongside Jake Roberts, Aretha Franklin and Mary Hart. Vince wanted Arnie to appear but it didn't work out.
There were a whole host of problems with the venue though. It was 55 yards from the dressing rooms to the ring hence the use of ‘scissors cars' to get the wrestlers to the ring. The use of the big screens could have been a disaster, only poor weather allowed them to be seen for the first hour and a half of the show.
But Wrestlemania III was one of the most successful events of all-time. Andre jobbed to Hogan and even allowed himself to be bodyslammed. But by the time Wrestlemania IV came around, the title scene was very different.
How on earth was Vince going to top an event seen live by over 90,000 people? Would the fans put up with another card dominated by Hogan? The Hogan v Andre feud carried on all year round, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase changed the feud by getting more influence over the Giant. Thanks to the Hebner twins, Andre won the WWF title and then tried to give it to Dibiase. That was against the federation's rules and the title was declared vacant. For the first time ever, Wrestlemania would see a new champion crowned with a one-night 14 man tournament.
The event returned to a smaller arena and forged links with Donald Trump with Wrestlemania being held at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Other matches on the card saw plenty of tag action with teams such as Demolition coming to the fore and Bobby Heenan getting in the ring with The Islanders against the British Bulldogs and Koko B Ware. The Honky Tonk Man retained his IC Title against Beefcake and The Ultimate Warrior made his Wrestlemania debut beating the recently departed Hercules Hernandez. Bad News Brown won a Battle Royal.
Celebs included Vanna White from ‘Wheel of Fortune', Robin Leach, Gladys Knight and Bob Uecker But this was all about the WWF Title tournament, could Hogan get his belt back? He had a bye through to the Quarter-Finals where he had to meet Andre (how surprising), a double DQ eliminated both from the tournament, Hogan wasn't going to be the champ!
It all boiled down to a final between Savage and Ted Dibiase. Hogan was in Savage's corner, Andre in Dibiase's. Thanks to Hogan's interference Savage won his first WWF Title, but the seeds were already being sown for Wrestlemania V.
This was the year of the big publishing cock-up. We hadn't quite reached the age when we all knew the results were pre-determined so imagine the outrage when the WWF Magazine came out before Wrestlemania instead of after it and had Savage on the front page described as WWF Champ
Over 600,000 homes purchased Wrestlemania IV on PPV and despite a much smaller attendance it still made more gate money than Wrestlemania III, no wonder they returned to the same venue the following year.
Hogan and Savage spent most of the year tagging as the Mega Powers but Savage became jealous of Hogan. He thought he wanted Miss Elizabeth so the feud was on. Hogan had his chance to become WWF Champion again at Wrestlemania V.
This was the biggest card to date with 14 matches plus Piper's Pit with the famous fire extinguisher routine with Morton Downey Jnr. Run DMC appeared at the event. The card wasn't that bad, Andre was now feuding with Jake and definitely scared of snakes! There was the IC title feud between the Warrior and Rick Rude, Bobby Heenan was back in the ring against the Red Rooster, Beefcake met Dibiase, Owen Hart made his Wrestlemania debut as The Blue Blazer against Mr Perfect and Shawn Michaels arrived on the Wrestlemania stage as part of the Rockers tag team with Marty Jannetty.
PPV figures continued to climb as wrestling approached another peak, Sean Mooney was a roving reporter but again this was all about Hogan, he regained his title, cue cheers.
Wrestlemania VI was the first time the event ventured outside the States with the card being held at the Toronto Skydome in front of over 67,000 fans. It was headlined by a Champion v Champion match with the WWF Champ Hogan up against the IC Champ, The Ultimate Warrior, was the torch about to be passed?
Again there were 14 matches on the card. Andre made his last in-ring appearance at Wrestlemania losing the tag team titles then turning face by bashing Heenan. Ted Dibiase now had his Million Dollar Belt defending it successfully against Jake Roberts, Piper was back (the films were crap then) with the most bizarre make-up seen at Wrestlemania (even beating Luna Vachon) as he was half white and half black in his match against Bad News Brown. Beefcake beat Mr Perfect and Dusty Rhodes was in the WWF tagging with Sapphire against Savage and Sherri. Celebs present were Steve Allen and Robert Goulet who had trouble remembering the words for the Canadian National Anthem.
Wrestlemania VI went well, just one problem though; Vince gave the belt to The Ultimate Warrior. Could he be the man who would keep the fans happy? He lasted as long as the following year's Royal Rumble.
It just wasn't working, Warrior was not a success as champion but then again neither was his successor! The first Gulf War was on the horizon so Vince decided to turn Sgt, Slaughter into an Iraqi sympathiser with General Adnan as his manager, looking oh so like Saddam. He won the title at the Rumble relegating Warrior to a feud with Savage. Who was to be Slaughter's Number one challenger? None other than the All-American Hulk Hogan. But this was to be the most controversial Wrestlemania ever held.
As the war began and American soldiers began to return home in coffins, the bad taste of the storyline began to hit home. Plans to hold Wrestlemania VII at the LA Colliseum were changed when it became apparent this wasn't going to sell out a big arena. It moved indoors and fans had to exchange their tickets even on the night of the card itself.
Again there were 14 matches. Notable debut was The Undertaker beating Jimmy Snuka. Jake Roberts met Ric Martel in a terrible blindfold match, The Hart Foundation lost their tag titles to The Nasty Boys setting Bret Hart free for a career in the singles division that would dominate Wrestlemania for years to come. Andre appeared on crutches for his last appearance at Wrestlemania helping the Big Bossman try unsuccessfully to win the IC Title from Mr Perfect. The British Bulldog made his solo debut at Wrestlemania beating The Warlord but this was to be his only non-tag match at the biggest event of the year. Celebs were Willie Nelson, Chuck Norris, Henry Winkler, Lou Ferrigno (Hulk watching the Hulk) and Macauley Culkin.
Best match of the night featured the Warrior (how many times do you write that?) in the retirement match against Savage. Warrior won, Elizabeth got back with Savage and many a bucket was filled by all this love crap.
Of course the night ended with the Iraqi's beaten and Hogan champion for the third time. All a bit predictable?
Fans had craved for years to see Hogan fight Ric Flair but even when the latter finally arrived in the WWF the pair didn't have that classic PPV match, we had to wait until Hogan joined WCW for that and it was about five years too late. But Flair did make an impact, he caused Hogan to lose the title again with the Undertaker getting his first title run. But days later at Tuesday in Texas, Hogan was champion again only for the title to be declared vacant by President Tunney. The title was to be decided at the Royal Rumble and this time it was Flair who got the belt. Hogan was left to feud with Sid but this was to be a special Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania VIII was held at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis in front of over 62,000 fans. For the first time ever there was a double main event. Flair defending his title against Savage (didn't he retire? This is wrestling you know) and Hogan meeting Sid in what was billed as his retirement match. Hogan was leaving the WWF to pursue his movie career and the WWF milked it to the very last.
Only 9 matches this time, Bret Hart won the IC Title against Roddy Piper, Money Inc kept their tag titles, Undertaker, now a face beat Jake and Shawn Michaels was in the singles rank beating Tito Santana (just how does a man who jobs so much at Wrestlemania get in the Hall of Fame or is this please Mexico month?). Owen Hart was now ‘The Rocket' beating Skinner, but this was a card built around the two main events. Flair lost his belt and the Hogan v Sid match ended with the return of The Ultimate Warrior but with a lot less muscles! Hogan was gone, what would happen next?
A lot changed in the year to come. Warrior got his run at the title losing to Savage at the Wembley Summerslam but then Flair regained his title only to lose it to Bret Hart, a new kid was at the top but there was a new heel causing havoc.
Yokozuna was the new top heel and thanks to the new rule that whoever won the Rumble got a title shot, Wrestlemania IX became Hart v Yokozuna at Caesar's Palace. Then it got interesting. Beefcake had been out of the ring for years after suffering serious facial injuries but he made his comeback as wrestlers do. After falling foul of Money Inc, his best mate came to his rescue. Hogan was back with Jimmy Hart as a face manager. A tag title match was set for Wrestlemania IX but that wasn't the whole story.
It wasn't the greatest of cards, Shawn Michaels retained his IC Title against Tatanka, The Steiners made their Wrestlemania debuts against the Headshrinkers, Undi beat Giant Gonzalez in one of the worst Wrestlemania matches ever, Lex Luger was in town against Mr Perfect and Razor Ramon beat the returning Bob Backlund, oh and we had two Doinks against Crush.
Hogan nearly didn't make Wrestlemania, he had facial injuries after a sailing accident but he wouldn't miss Wrestlemania and Vince definitely didn't want his biggest star off the show because of the effect it would have on PPV rates. Hogan and Beefcake didn't get the tag belts so that was that or was it? Thanks to interference by Mr Fuji, Yokozuna became the first heel to win a WWF Title match at Wrestlemania but it didn't last very long. Hogan came out and challenged the champ to a match, of course he won in a matter of moments due to Fuji's salt throwing tactics going wrong. Hogan was champ again, would you believe it!
Hogan wasn't champ for very long, he never defended the title until losing it to Yokozuna at The King of Ring. The heel kept the belt until the landmark Wrestlemania X which returned to Madison Square Garden. Again there was controversy at the Rumble. Luger, now the new All-American hero and Bret Hart jointly won the Rumble, cue decision time from President Tunney. Both would get title shots at Wrestlemania X, after a toss of the coin won by Luger, he got first shot with Mr Perfect as ref. Bret Hart would have to meet the now heel Owen Hart before his title match, to be refereed by Roddy Piper.
There were ten matches on the card and some right stinkers. Doink and Dink against Bigelow and Luna, a one minute match between Earthquake and the squashed Adam Bomb and Men on a Mission in the tag titles match. The women's title was competed for, the first time since Wrestlemania 2. Alundra Blayze (Madusa Miceli) beat Leilani Kai who also had a title shot at the first ever Wrestlemania. There were however two absolute classics. Owen Hart beat Bret Hart in a fantastic opener and then there was the legendary Ladder match for the IC belt with Razor Ramon beating Shawn Michaels.
The two WWF Title matches weren't exactly classics. Yokozuna kept his belt thanks to Perfect's refereeing setting up a feud with Luger that never got off the ground but then Bret Hart got his second WWF Title ending the reign of Yokozuna. Owen Hart remained outside the ring looking on enviously.
The Hart brothers feuded for months, including a Cage match at Summerslam but by Wrestlemania XI there was a new champ, a really crap one. Owen cost Bret his title at the Survivor Series giving Bob Backlund his second WWF Title. He didn't last very long as Diesel won the belt in a minute at MSG.
At the Harford Civic Center, Diesel defended his title against the man who he used to bodyguard for, Shawn Michaels. Everyone thought Michaels would get the belt, especially with Sid as his new bodyguard, but amazingly, stupidly, Vince let Diesel keep the title. He was spending too much time thinking of the upcoming Michaels v Sid feud.
The other big match on the card, which only had seven bouts, saw ex-NFL player Lawrence Taylor beat Bam Bam Bigelow. Such importance was given to this match it was the final match on the card! Yokozuna returned as Owen's mystery partner to get the tag titles off the Smoking Gunns. Undi was stuck in a crap feud with the over-the-hill Bundy, Davey Boy Smith was stuck with Lex Luger as tag partner and Jeff Jarrett feuded with Razor Ramon over the IC Belt. Bret Hart finally ended his feud with Backlund with Piper again a ref. Celebs included Pamela Anderson and Salt ‘n' Pepa.
Wrestlemania XI wasn't a classic, that's for sure and the WWF were starting to have problems thanks to Ted Turner pumping his cash into WCW. By the time Wrestlemania XII came round, Ramon was on his way and Diesel had his last match losing to the Undertaker. Bret Hart was champ again and finally he was to meet Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania in a sixty minute Iron-Man Match.
The big build-up was based around Michael's quest for the WWF Title, Vince loves that kind of storyline, he's doing it now with Chris Benoit It was a different kind of event this time around. There were no celebs and on the eve of Wrestlemania the WWF held the Slammy's.
There were only eight matches on the card, dominated by the Hart v Michaels match. But there were some notable debuts, Austin beat Vega and Hunter Hearst Helmsley wrestled his first match at Wrestlemania. He lost in under two minutes to the Ultimate Warrior (yep he's back again, Vince never learnt) though he did get a feud set up with Marc Mero. Piper beat Goldust in a rambling Hollywood Back Lot Brawl complete with Goldust in sexy women's undies (Dusty must have been so proud), Yokozuna was a face stuck in a terrible tag match that included Ahmed Johnson and Jake Roberts A Free for All match saw the Huckster draw with the Nacho Man as the WCW insults went into overdrive.
The sixty minute Iron Man Match wasn't a classic, it ended 0-0 after sixty minutes, Hart thought he'd kept his belt but overtime was added and Michaels finally won the title and Bret learnt what it was like to be screwed by Vince. A good ending to a pretty crap Wrestlemania.
If that was bad, then Wrestlemania XIII was definitely an unlucky one. Michaels feuded with Sid, lost it, got it back then got injured. Bret Hart won a four way match to win the title again but then lost it to Sid. Unbelievably the main event was to be Sid defending against The Undertaker.
Just seven matches this time around but one was a classic that changed the WWF. Bret Hart beat Stone Cold Steve Austin in a submission match when the bloodied Austin passed out. Blood at Wrestlemania? Austin getting cheered? Hart getting booed? What was happening?
The biggest debut on the card was that of Rocky Mavia who retained his IC title against The Sultan (Rikishi without the weight or that ass). He wasn't quite getting the cheers those days. Owen and Davey Boy kept their tag belts against Vader and Mankind, Triple H beat Goldust, this wasn't a good card. Finally The Undertaker won the WWF Title against Sid in one of the most disappointing Wrestlemania's ever held.
The title kept changing hands. Undertaker lost to the now heel Bret Hart but we were just months away from the Montreal screw job that saw Michaels back as champ, Hart out of the WWF and into WCW and Vince with spit on his face. But the hatred fans had for Vince was a turning point. Wrestlemania XIV was headlined by Shawn Michaels defending his title against Stone Cold Steve Austin with Mike Tyson as the special enforcer. Vince would do anything to stop Austin winning the title but that wasn't to be, Austin won the belt, Michaels was out injured for years and Tyson put the ex-champ on the floor.
It was an eight match card and pretty impressive too. The Undertaker finally met Kane, now managed by Paul Bearer, you can guess the result! Triple H beat Owen Hart for the European Title, The Rock defended his title against Ken Shamrock and Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) won the tag titles. LOD 2000 with Sunny won a Battle Royal. There was even a light-heavyweight title match with Taka Michinoku beating Aguila. Pete Rose made his Wrestlemania debut getting tombstoned by Kane.
It was time for the Austin v Mr McMahon feud to begin in earnest and it wasn't long before Austin stunned his boss. Triple H took over as the head of D Generation X and the battle against WCW was being won as The Rock came into his own as Vince tried everything to get the belt off Austin
I used to be able to name all the WWF Title changes off by heart but that stops now. The title changed seven times before Wrestlemania XV. Austin lost to Kane, then got it back, then got pinned by both Undi and Kane. The title was vacated, Rock won it at Survivor Series with Vince screwing Mankind. He got the belt, then lost it to Rock at the Rumble in that famous I Quit match, then got it back again during the half time break at Superbowl before losing it to the Rock again. Still with me? Austin was Number One challenger despite Mr McMahon winning the Rumble so the scene was set for a classic Rock v Austin match at Wrestlemania XV.
There were ten matches at Wrestlemania XV but some right disasters. Bart Gunn saw his career wrecked losing a Brawl for All to Butterbean. The evil Undertaker beat Boss Man in the only ever Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania, then his Ministry hanged poor old Boss Man. Elsewhere it was heel turns galore as Chyna turned on Kane then Chyna (she was a bitch that night) and Triple H turned on X-Pac to join the Corporation. Pete Rose was dressed as a chicken and got beat up quite a lot. Mankind beat Big Show but couldn't be the ref for the title match so Vince took over only to be told by President Michaels that wasn't on. In came Hebner but eventually Mankind was ref and Austin got the title back.
Titles kept changing time after time in the year leading up to Wrestlemania 2000, Eight changes before the big event with everyone from Undi to Big Show to Mr McMahon himself holding the belt. But now we were in the Triple H era, he'd been champ for a while and had retired Mick Foley but it was also time for the McMahon family soap opera to begin. The main event at Wrestlemania 2000 would see a McMahon in every corner. Steph with Triple H, Linda got Mick Foley back after another short retirement, Shane had Big Show (can't win them all) and The Rock was supported by Mr McMahon.
Elsewhere the card used up as many wrestlers as it could, a bit like this year really. Angle defended his Euro-Continental Titles against Benoit and Jericho losing both without being pinned. It was Edge and Christian winning the Triple Ladder match for the tag titles against the Dudleys and the Hardys. 13 men fought over the Hardcore Title and even Moolah was back getting involved in the cat fight between Terri and Kat.
There were no celebs, Vince said “our guys are the celebs now.” The Four Corners Match ended in yet another screw job. Mr McMahon turned on The Rock leaving Triple H as the first heel to enter and leave Wrestlemania as WWF Champion, At least we got to see screeching Steph get the People's Elbow from The Rock.
Again the title changed hands plenty of time throughout 2000 and early 2001, Angle getting a taste of glory but as we reached Wrestlemania XVII The Rock was champion and Royal Rumble winner Austin was again his opponent and with the event being held in Texas, surely Austin would again get the title.
It was an eleven match card with six title matches. Mr McMahon has his first Wrestlemania match, a great streetfight with Shane McMahon. Mick Foley was back as ref, Linda sedated in a wheelchair and Trish again having an affair with one of the staff, this time Mr McMahon himself. It was a classic match.
Elsewhere, Jericho retained his IC Title against Willian Regal, Kane won the Hardcore Title, Eddie Guerrero won Test's European Title, Chyna won the Women's title from the RTC Ivory but all were short matches. The main focus was put on the McMahon family feud, Angle beating Benoit in their usual classic, Undi beating Triple H in what I believe to be his best Wrestlemania match, the brilliant TLC match between Edge/Christian, the Dudleys and the Hardys and of course the shocking title match.
It looked like being a bad night for Vince, he'd been beaten up by his son, been kicked in the balls by his wife and now he had the possibility of Austin getting the title back. But shocks were on their way, Austin turned heel, not just that he joined forces with Mr McMahon! Austin won the title, the swine!
Wrestlemania XVIII was built around one man, Triple H. He'd had a terrible injury and wasn't around when Chris Jericho beat Rock and Austin in one night to become the first Undisputed Champion. But weeks before the Royal Rumble he was back, of course he won the Rumble and his feud with Jericho was set. But he also had marriage problems and after Steph faked a pregnancy he was back as a single man facing Jericho who come Wrestlemania had Steph by his side (and after all the things he'd said about her!).
By now WWF was history and WWE was born. There was also a huge amount of stars who'd never appeared at Wrestlemania having arrived from ECW and WCW. The NOW were also back in town and that meant one thing. Hogan was back at Wrestlemania for the first time since Wrestlemania IX. He was due to meet The Rock in a battle of the icons but this was his first Wrestlemania as a heel. More on that shortly.
Elsewhere, Ric Flair returned after ten years but lost to The Undertaker, Scott Hall lost a terrible match to Steve Austin that encouraged the latter to leave the company. RVD won the IC Title from Regal, DDP beat Christian in a European Title defence, The Hardcore title began with Maven, but the 24-7 rule meant changes throughout the show with Spike Dudley, The Hurricane, Mighty Molly and Christian winning the belt before Maven got it back again and left in a limo. Billy and Chuck kept their tag belts in a fourway disaster. Angle beat Kane, Edge beat Booker T and Jazz retained her women's title against Trish and Lita, but they had a terrible time, why?
They had to follow the amazing Rock v Hogan match, the crowd response was amazing, the fans virtually refused to boo Hogan and despite Rock winning, this was the night the New World Order died. Hogan was attacked by Hall and Nash but he was back as a fan favourite at the event he helped make the success that it is.
Main event time and Triple H getting his first Undisputed title in a disappointing match with Jericho. Wrestlemania XVIII belonged to Rock and Hogan.
As the year progressed WWE changed beyond recognition. The Brand extension took place and now we had two rosters on Raw and Smackdown. The Raw title became the World Heavyweight Title, dominated by Triple H while the Smackdown Title was in the hands of Lesnar, Big Show and then Kurt Angle.
Wrestlemania XIX also saw Hogan back and up against Mr McMahon, the WWE owner bled like the crazy man he is and it was a surprisingly good match which of course Hogan won.
Elsewhere, on a card with just nine matches, Matt Hardy kept his Cruiserweight title in just 5 minutes against Rey Mysterio, Undi kept his unbeaten record in a terrible handicap match against Big Show and A-Train (Undi's partner the woeful Nathan Jones turned up right at the end), Trish won the Women's title, Team Angle retained the WWE Tag Titles (for some reason the World Tag Title match ended up on Heat). The first five matches on the card only lasted half an hour. All the effort was put into Michael's in-ring return to Wrestlemania against Jericho, the Hogan match and yet another Austin v Rock match, with Rock finally getting a win over Austin in what has been Austin's last proper match in WWE. Main events were Booker T losing a title match to Triple H and a classic between Angle and Lesnar. Angle was one match away from a serious neck operation and Lesnar nearly joined him after a missed shooting star press. Lesnar won the title
It was a great show, okay a few dodgy matches but with the roster he has Vince really should be putting on great shows all the time. But wrestling comes down to more than talented wrestlers. Behind the success of Wrestlemania is Vince McMahon, his team of writers and his booking skills.
In 2004 it was Wrestlemania 20 and the kitchen sink was thrown at the most hyped event for years. We saw a new World Heavyweight Champion as finally Chris Benoit won the big one defeating Champ Triple H and Shawn Michaels in an awesome triple threat match. Over on Smackdown, Kurt Angle lost another title match at Wrestlemania as he was beaten by Eddie Guerrero. The Rock and Mick Foley returned for a one-off Rock and Sock Connection reunion only to lose to the Evolution team of Orton, Flair and Batista. The supposedly big match of the night was Lesnar v Goldberg with Austin as ref. But the news that Lesnar was leaving for a career in the NFL that never materialized, and Goldberg was going as well made this a match the fans booed throughout and cheered Austin more than anyone else. Both tag titles were retained in meaningless matches with most the teams splitting within weeks, in fact the only teams now competing are La Resistance (without Dupree) and the Bashams. John Cena beat the Big Show for the US Title and poor Molly got her head shaved after losing the women's title match with Victoria. Chavo won the ridiculously short cruiserweight open to keep the belt, Ultimo Dragon fell over as he entered Madison Square Garden. The big event of the night was the re-appearance of the deadman as the Undertaker came back to his original gimmick (well nearly) with Paul Bearer as he beat Kane. Christian beat Chris Jericho as Trish turned on Y2J and Torrie and Sable beat Stacy and Miss Jackie in a terrible lingerie match.
Wrestlemania 21 proved to be the year Vince was ready to take a major gamble. The Evolution break-up burned slowly during the year till the point that Batista finally decided enough was enough and he chose to challenge Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title. Over on Smackdown JBL was still champion but Cena beat Angle to become Number one challenger and the title match was set. Both titles changed hands and WWE found themselves with two champs who'd never held such high titles before.
The match of the night though saw Kurt Angle defeat Shawn Michaels in a match that'll stay in our memories forever. Elsewhere on the card, The Undertaker went to 13-0 with an impressive victory over Randy Orton, Big Show progressed to 0-6 at Wrestlemania losing a lame Sumo match to Akebono and the IC title wasn't defended again. Why? Well champ Shelton Benjamin found himself in a Money in the Bank Ladder match taking on Edge, Christian, Kane, Benoit and Jericho with the winner getting a guaranteed title shot sometime in the next year. The match stole the card and it was Edge who got the title shot. Trish retained her women's title against Christy Hemme and Hulk Hogan made an appearance as Hussan and Daivari terrorised poor old Eugene.
So to Wrestlemania 22 and yet another Mr McMahon match as he seemed to be wrestling all over the place during 2006. This time around it was Shawn Michaels who had incurred his wrath by not backing him up during yet another onslaught over that night in Montreal. Not a bad match as Michaels got the win but he could have been better used I think. Onto the main events and another win for Cena as he successfully defended his WWE Title against Triple H. Cena was the face but you’d never have guessed seeing he nearly got booed out of the arena. Over on Smackdown just 9 minutes was given over to Rey Mysterio sentimentally winning the World Heavyweight Title in a triple threat against Randy Orton and defending (but not pinned) champion Kurt Angle in probably his last Wrestlemania appearance. Chris Benoit lost his US title to JBL, Trish Stratus lost her women’s title to Mickie James and the tag titles on Raw were successfully defended by Kane and Big Show (his first Wrestlemania victory) against Chris Masters and Carlito. RVD won the Money in the Bank Ladder match and the disaster of the night was The Boogeyman defeating Booker T and Sharmell in a handicap match. Little did we know what Booker would achieve in the months ahead. The Undertaker kept his winning streak going beating Mark Henry in a casket match, Torrie beat Candice in a Playboy Pillow Fight and the best match of the night saw Edge defeat Mick Foley in a hardcore classic.
WrestleMania 23 saw the link with Donald Trump renewed. It wasn’t a return to one of his casinos though but a Battle of the Billionaires. Even more famous now after ‘The Apprentice’ and still famous for that hairstyle, the wealth and the hair were combined into one of the most memorable matches seen on the show for a fair while. Bobby Lashley represented Trump and Umaga was Mr McMahon’s representative with Stone Cold Steve Austin back as referee. Lashley got the win and McMahon was forced to have his hair shaved off. The look on his face was priceless.
Title matches on the card saw The Undertaker win the World Heavyweight title against Batista in his first title bout at WrestleMania since WM13. John Cena was again victorious beating perennially unsuccessful title challenger Shawn Michaels in 28 minutes. Chris Benoit defeated MVP to keep his US title in what was to prove to be his last match at WrestleMania while the WWE Women’s title match lasted just three minutes as Melina beat that years stripper, Ashley in a Lumberjill match. ECW didn’t have a title match as their champion was helping Donald Trump but in a shock result the ECW Originals won a tag match against The New Breed. The Money in the Bank Ladder match again proved to be a success and this time it was Mr Kennedy who won the briefcase and the guaranteed title shot. Not that it did him any good of course.Poor old Kane found himself winning the booby prize as he found himself losing to The Great Khali in five minutes. h did the most moaning? Probably a toss up between Ric Flair and Carlito Cool who found themselves stuck as a tag team in the dark match beating Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero.
So to WrestleMania 24 and a card dominated not by the title matches but by an overpaid boxer and an all-time great in his final match (probably). Ric Flair had finally decided that it was time to hang up his boots (unless wearing them for an autograph session of course). In the months leading up to WrestleMania he’d been in a series of ‘career threatening matches’, one more loss and that was it. He made it all the way to WrestleMania but the run ended there as he went down in defeat to Shawn Michaels who seemed almost apologetic as he super-kicked and then pinned Flair. Any top ten WrestleMania moments will always include the fans reaction as Flair said his goodbyes.
Meanwhile desperate to push up the buy rates, Floyd Mayweather Jr was hired to take on The Big Show in a wrestling match. It proved to be better than most expected and surprisingly Mayweather got the win.
Title matches saw The Undertaker go to 16-0 when he beat Edge to win the World Heavyweight title in the best match on the card. Cena’s winning streak at WrestleMania ended when he failed to win the WWE title from Randy Orton in a match that also included Triple H.
Blink and you might have missed the first ever ECW title match at WrestleMania as Kane destroyed Chavo Guerrero in just eight seconds. The tag belts, IC title, US title and Women’s titles weren’t defended.
CM Punk shocked everyone by winning the Money in the Bank Ladder match (only 13 minutes this time around), Batista beat Umaga in a ‘battle for brand supremacy’ that proved nothing and entertained no one, JBL opened the show with a decent Belfast Brawl victory over Finlay and the Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjack match had the lights go out and Snoop Doggy drop off as Melina and Beth Phoenix beat the latest Playboy recruit Maria and Ashley.
Wrestlemania is an amazing event. It may not have the celebs it used to have focusing more on rock bands like Motorhead and Limp Bizkit these days but would you miss a Wrestlemania? Course you wouldn't. No way, when this starts on Sunday, I'll be saying one thing in my head. "NOTHING ELSE MATTERS" Nothing else does matter, I cant wait for Wrestlemania, can you?