I decided that, seeing as WrestleMania is on the horizon, I’d go and review every main event that has happened over the events 36 year history. I’m defining “main event” as the match that goes on last, so that will almost surely mean that I miss off some classic bouts, but don’t blame me, I didn’t book these shows!
I’ll be releasing one of these every week in the build up to Mania, with each one containing five matches. Hopefully they are fun and give you something to look forward to. If not, it shouldn’t be too difficult to ignore them at least what with all the other stuff going on here on the Blog of Doom during Mania Season.
Last week I covered the Main Events from Mania’s VI to X, and you can read what I thought by clicking right HERE
Anyway, that’s enough chatter from me, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
Lawrence Taylor w/ His All-Star Team Vs Bam Bam Bigelow w/ The Million $ Corporation
WrestleMania XI is known as one of the weakest Mania events, with the WWF being obsessed with cramming it with as many celebrities as they could in a desperate attempt to appear relevant. None of that is clearer than in their choice for the Main Event, as famous American Footballer Lawrence Taylor stepped into the ring to fight Bigelow as a result of Bigelow shoving him down at the Royal Rumble. The WWF hyped this for all they were worth, but it mostly led to scorn for Taylor in the press and the event underperformed on pay per view.
The big question going into the bout would be whether the veteran Bigelow would be able to get something good out of Taylor. Taylor was athletic of course due to his real sports background, but would that mean he could hang in a WrestleMania Main Event? In storyline they said that WWF Champ Diesel had been helping Taylor with his training to give an excuse for why Bigelow wouldn’t just cream the rookie in seconds. Pat Patterson is doing the refereeing here, just in case Taylor gets lost or forgets something.
Taylor actually starts the match hot by getting some nice forearm smashes on Bigelow before clotheslining him to the floor, which gets a surprised reaction from the crowd, who were probably just expecting a weird spectacle rather than an actual wrestling match. Taylor actually gets a nice bulldog headlock back inside the ring for two and then throws some more forearms. They’ve clearly found a handful of things that Taylor can do well and they’ve worked on them so that they look good. It’s very clever and suggests that Taylor could be a decent wrestler with further coaching.
It looks like the two factions will brawl outside, but Bigelow uses the chance to cut Taylor off and get some heat on him. They keep it simple for the most part, with Bigelow doing mostly stomps, clubs and chokes to make sure that Taylor doesn’t have to take any particularly difficult bumps. Taylor actually sells quite well, which is something that is often difficult for rookie wrestlers, and the crowd gets behind him whilst Bigelow works him over.
Taylor manages to get a big back suplex out of nowhere, but Bigelow gets back up first and continues to work him over. Bigelow gets a big moonsault and that would appear to be all, but he sells that is knee is hurt upon landing, which delays him in making the cover and allows Taylor to kick out. Taylor tries to go for a Jack-knife Powerbomb, but he can’t quite get it and it ends up being more of a gut wrench suplex, which gets the celebrity a two count. Bigelow selling the knee was smart, as it basically showed that he had it won but his knee prevented him from getting the three count.
Bigelow heads up again and manages to get the diving head butt, but Taylor kicks out again on his own merit this time, which leads to Bigelow becoming disheartened. This allows Taylor to fight back with some more excellent forearm smashes before heading up to the second rope for one of them, which is enough for the pin.
WINNER: LAWRENCE TAYLOR
As a match this was basically just “fine”, but that was already way better than you would expect it to be due to Taylor’s lack of experience, so on the “celebrity match” sliding scale it’s one of the very best matches of its kind. They kept it super simple and, outside of the powerbomb botch, Taylor managed to do everything that he needed to do. Bigelow held it all together well and Patterson did a good job as referee to make sure that Taylor always knew what was going on. It may not have been much of a commercial success, but Lawrence Taylor Vs Bam Bam Bigelow was certainly a critical one!
Iron Man Match
Champ: Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels w/ Jose Lothario
This was back before Shawn and Bret legitimately hated one another in real life, and both men were still babyfaces at the time of this match. Bret had been booked as a pretty weak Champion since 1996 had begun, so the result wasn’t especially in doubt here. Lothario was Michaels’ trainer and a former wrestler in his own right, so they decided to add him to Shawn’s act here in an effort to give Shawn a more mature and human edge due to having his mentor with him. Shawn gets the big special Mania entrance, coming down on a zip line, which is something you could actually get your wrestler to do in career mode of Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth.
The big issue with this particular match is that Shawn and Bret wanted to do an hour Broadway, but the WWF decided to promote the match with the Iron Man stipulation, even though they had no intention of having either man drop falls during the actual Iron Man portion. Thus the crowd is all geared to see falls take place and then gets progressively more bored and annoyed when they don’t get them. It also kind of telegraphs the draw, due to the crowd being constantly aware of the time remaining, whereas a normal Broadway would be less likely to have that issue.
One thing I’ve never actually noticed about this match before is how loudly the ring is miked up, with both men’s movements echoing around the building. It could just be that it just seems louder because the Anaheim crowd are so quiet. We get a timer and scoreboard on screen for the match, which does at least give the match the authentic feel of being an actual sporting event. The first ten minutes or so is mostly stuff on the mat, and it’s well done. Eventually both men start throwing some strikes, which leads to Shawn sending Bret outside with a head scissor.
I actually like the dynamic of Speed Vs Technical wrestling that is going on here, although I tend to prefer matches between these two when there is a clear heel and face, which is probably why I like the Survivor Series 97 match so much because it’s a good hate filled brawl where Shawn is drawing mega heel heat just for breathing. Bret does slide into the role of “subtle heel” here though, such as when he sends Shawn flying out of the ring with a big clothesline before trying to cause further damage out on the floor. Shawn fights back however and goes for the Sweet Chin Music, but Bret dodges it and Tony Chimel ends up taking it instead. Chimel sells the move big and has to be taken away on a stretcher, which is a clever way of showing off how devastating the kick is, but it does kind of grind the match to a halt as Bret has to sit in a chin lock whilst Chimel is taken away.
We get some more technically proficient wrestling following that, with Shawn actually getting the better of things for a bit and working over Bret’s arm with some nice looking submission holds. Sadly it all ends up meaning nothing as Bret essentially just ignores it and it never gets referenced again for the rest of the bout. It’s annoying because Shawn catching Bret with something like a Fujiwara arm bar after all the arm work for a flash submission would not only have been an interesting way for Bret to drop a fall, but it would have also been a big twist in the story to see the speed wrestler actually manage to make the technical wrestler submit. You could then have Bret catch Shawn with a cross body block or something to just totally turn the world upside down.
We’re not getting any falls though, so it just ends and they move onto the next section of the match, which is a shame because there’s a spot where Shawn catches Bret with the Divorce Court arm breaker and the crowd really wakes up because they sense that they might actually get to see something, but then nothing happens and the excitement just dissipates. In another spot that feels kind of pointless, Bret rallies on the half hour mark and gets Shawn with a kind of face buster from the top bump, only to knock Earl Hebner down in the process. Earl is pretty much immediately back up however and him being down doesn’t lead to him missing a pin or cheating, so it was either a botch or a completely unnecessary spot.
Bret gets a nice piledriver and makes the cover for two, with the kick out getting audible boos from the crowd, who just want to see a fall and are starting to lose hope that they will. Bret heads up but Shawn throws him off, but Bret is able to bail outside before Shawn can connect with Sweet Chin Music, so Shawn just dives out onto him instead. Shawn goes for a cross body block from the top back inside, but Bret rolls through for two, in another spot that would have worked great as a way for someone to lose a fall without looking bad. Shawn tries going to a sleeper next, which leads to Lawler baffling Vince by asking him what would happen if Bret goes out here and can’t be revived. Vince just stutters and changes the subject. I love how Lawler could get away with doing that to him.
Bret eventually gets out of the sleeper and back body drops Shawn out to the floor, which Shawn sells big. Bret rams Shawn spine first into the ring post and then puts him back inside to continue working that part of his body over. Mechanically you can’t really fault this match, as both men have been working hard and everything has looked good. Bret gets a super back drop from the second rope for two and then settles into a camel clutch, which brings the crowd down once again after they got excited over the big move. I really think they’d be gripped if this was just a normal match but they’ve come expecting an Iron Man match and they aren’t getting one.
Bret flings Shawn outside again, and he actually clatters Lothario on the way down. This is to try and pretty much officially push Bret over the line as being a heel in the match, but the crowd doesn’t really care and Lothario gets up pretty quickly after it anyway, so it again feels like a spot that didn’t need to be there. Bret does bust out a suicide dive though, which leads to a count out tease. Shawn makes it back in, where Bret catches him with an absolute beauty of a German Suplex for two. That looked fabulous. With ten minutes to go, Bret locks in another camel clutch and the crowd eventually starts to a clap a bit for Shawn to get out, but it takes them sitting in it for a while first.
Shawn does finally get out of the camel clutch, only for a double clothesline to kill the momentum once again. Bret recovers first and gets a superplex, but goes for The Sharpshooter instead of making a cover. Bret can’t apply it though, so settles on a single leg Boston Crab instead, but Shawn makes the ropes as we hit the five minute mark. Bret goes for his trademark elbow drop off the second rope, but Shawn gets his feet up and then gets some near falls with an axe handle smash and an elbow drop, both from the top rope.
Shawn actually busts out Shinjiro Ohtani’s Spiral Bomb before heading up for a moonsault press, which gets him another two count. We hit the one minute mark as Shawn ascends to the top rope, but he misses whatever he wanted to deliver and that allows Bret to lock in The Sharpshooter. Shawn teases tapping but lasts the thirty or so seconds he needs to do in order to see out the time limit. Bret decides that his work is done and leaves with his belt, but WWF President Gorilla Monsoon demands that the match must continue in sudden death extra time. Bret trudges back and the extra time starts.
Bret gets a flurry on Shawn and seems to have things in hand, but Shawn manages to catch him with the Sweet Chin Music for a double down. Shawn just gets another once both men get up however, and that’s enough for him to get the three count and make his boyhood dream™ come true.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SHAWN MICHAELS
This was the wrong stipulation for the two men to work in front of the wrong crowd for them to work it in front of. This crowd wanted to see an Iron Man match with falls and excitement, whilst Shawn and Bret wanted to do a classic World Title hour draw, and thus the crowd was ultimately deflated by what they got as it wasn’t what they signed up for. The actual wrestling was very good for the most part, with Bret’s no selling of all of the arm work from Shawn being the only bit that I found egregious or unreasonable.
However, as good as it was it just wasn’t what the crowd paid to see, and it showed in the crowd reactions. Granted, the Anaheim crowd was pretty lousy all night, but there were enough crowd reactions during the exciting spots of the match that I think they could have had them way more invested if they’d just done a different match. I appreciate the effort of both men, but this is not the all-time classic Match of the Year contest that it’s often credited as being in my opinion.
Personally I would have had Bret take a 2-0 lead with about twenty five to thirty minutes left, thus leading to Shawn having to claw his way back even before eventually winning it in extra time. Bret and Shawn were never going to do falls in this though, so the point is moo. My personal favourite Iron Man match would probably be the thirty minute Rick Rude Vs Ricky Steamboat one from Beach Blast 1992, but if you want an example of a really great hour long Iron Man match then I’d recommend Triple H Vs The Rock from Judgment Day 2000, as they not only work it well but also have interesting ways to decide falls, such as Triple H getting himself intentionally disqualified so that he can weaken Rock and then pick him off with two easy falls afterwards.
Champ: Sycho Sid Vs The Undertaker
WrestleMania 13 ended up being as unlucky for the WWF as the number included in its name, as Shawn Michaels “losing his smile” essentially killed off any plans they had for a Bret Vs Shawn rematch. Thankfully Bret still had an issue fizzing with Stone Cold Steve Austin, so they went on to have a gruelling submissions match on the show, which famously led to both of them turning and shooting Austin into the stratosphere as a major star.
Sid Vs Undertaker was pretty much the only marquee match for this show that the WWF was actually able to deliver on as planned. Undertaker goes back to his classic look of torn shirt and grey gloves for this one, which hopefully he will do in his final ever match when that inevitably happens. The continued popularity of Sid amongst certain circles of wrestling fan still baffles me. I mean, yeah, he’s big and has a unique charisma but his work is utterly abysmal, and yet despite this people in the smark community seem to utterly cream themselves at the very sight of him.
Bret Hart comes out before the match starts to complain about not being part of it, so Sid Powerbomb’s him into heeldom once and for all. As Sid taunts a fallen Bret on the microphone, Undertaker attacks him and the match is on. Taker slugs away and goes to what we now call Old School, but was more like Contemporary School back in 1997. However, Sid catches him on a Stinger Splash attempt and cinches in a bear hug. The bear hug goes on for a while, and it’s thrilling stuff let me tell you.
Taker manages to fight out of the bear hug but Sid clotheslines him outside and then flings him over the commentary table. Sid drops Taker onto the guard rail a few times before slamming him onto the table, which doesn’t break. Back inside that gets two. Vince mentions on commentary that Taker and Sid went to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and demanded that they be given some leeway from the referee here, which they’re clearly getting if that last sequence was anything to go by.
Sid now goes to a camel clutch, as this exciting exhibition continues to roll onwards. It at least makes use of his size, as opposed to a nerve pinch. Sid goes up to the second rope and comes off it with an axe handle smash, thankfully not destroying his leg in the process. Powerslam gets Sid a couple of two counts as the match continues at a leisurely pace. This match is like the wrestling equivalent of a Sunday afternoon drive through the countryside, but without the refreshing pint of Guinness at the end to make it all feel worthwhile.
Sid’s stuff is just about passable as well, meaning I can’t take any comic value from that either. Taker gets a jumping clothesline but Sid cuts him off right away again, just as the pace looked to be picking up. Taker manages to send Sid outside and then throws him over the rail into the crowd. Sid sells some punches in his usual goofy manner, but back inside he’s able to dodge an Undertaker elbow drop and applies a chin lock. The LAST thing this match needed was another rest hold!
Taker finally fights out and gets a powerslam of his own for two, only to then apply a rest hold as well. Worst of all, it’s a bloody nerve pinch! Come on lads, pick the sodding pace up!! Who on Earth thought it was a good idea to have these guys go so long? You couldn’t have split the opening four way tag match into two separate tag matches or something to fill some time? Both men go for a big boot and knock each other down.
Sid recovers first and covers for two. Sid heads up to the second rope for another axe handle and then heads up to the second rope again for a really sloppy looking clothesline. Taker counters another second rope attempt with a punch to the gut but Sid cuts him off AGAIN before he can get any momentum going. Sid goes to the top, but Taker throws him off and then heads up himself for a big clothesline for two. Taker sets Sid up for the Tombstone Piledriver but Sid counters to one of his own for two.
The fight spills outside where Bret returns to hit Sid with a chair a couple of times before referees and officials drag him back. Taker rams Sid spine first into the ring post and rolls him back into the ring where he gets a Chokeslam for a near fall. Taker tries another running clothesline, but Sid ducks it and then tries for a Powerbomb. Bret runs out again at this point and scuffles with Sid on the apron before dropping him throat first on the top rope. Sid stumbles around into a Tombstone and Undertaker picks up the win for the title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: THE UNDERTAKER
You know, I can appreciate the psychology of Sid being one step ahead of Undertaker because he doesn’t fear him and methodically wearing him down, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to watch 20 minutes of it. I think they got the story across pretty adequately with the first two rest holds, so the subsequent 72 of them that followed were kind of redundant. Sid’s work was actually not that bad for once, although his selling was still terrible, but man did this match drag with a capital “D”.
Three Bret run ins got to the point of overkill as well, and it kind of made Taker look like a chump that he needed Bret’s help to win after getting dominated for most of the match. I guess they thought that because Taker was winning in the end, that they’d make Sid look as strong as possible in losing, but the lasting impression you’d get from watching this was that Sid was the better man and would had retained had Bret not gotten involved.
Guest Enforcer: Mike Tyson
Champ: Shawn Michaels Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
This was the WrestleMania that really helped the WWF push its way ahead of WCW, with the coronation of Stone Cold as the WWF Champion finally leading to them winning a round in the Monday Night Wars less than a month later. Tyson of course played a huge role in making this match such a big deal, as the angles where he got in the face of both competitors before finally siding with Shawn caused fans to excitedly slam down the cash for the climatic bout to see just what “The Baddest Man on the Planet” would be doing.
Rumours persist that Shawn decided to get a bit uppity over whether he’d actually do the job or not for Austin, which caused Undertaker to tape up his fists in preparation to give him a battering if he tried anything. This has been disputed, notably by Shawn himself, but I kind of want it to be true just because it’s a funny story. Shawn gets sung down to the ring by Connecticut Yankee, as they utterly butcher the DX theme, but it helps give the match a special feel at least.
Shawn was dealing with a serious back injury here after banging it on a casket at the Royal Rumble, and he wouldn’t work another match in the WWF for over four years after this (Although I do believe he worked a match for his training school company in the meantime). Austin pinballs Shawn around in the early stages before giving him a back body drop over the top rope onto Triple H and Chyna. Triple H attacks Austin in retaliation, so Mike Chioda kicks him to the back, leaving Tyson as the sole DX representative at ringside.
I can’t remember which WWE 2K game it was, but on one of them they had this match and couldn’t be bothered paying up for Tyson’s image rights, so they just had a generic man at ringside as the enforcer. Austin and Shawn brawl down the aisle, where Shawn hits Austin with Connecticut Yankee’s drum kit and then throws him into a dumpster left over from a previous bout. Austin goes back to flinging Shawn around back inside however, even getting the Stun Gun for old time’s take, which gets him a two count.
Shawn bails when Austin tries the Stunner, so Austin simply punches him off the apron and Shawn takes a fantastic bump face first onto the announce table. Even with a destroyed back Shawn Michaels was still an absolute bump machine! Shawn eventually manages to get a desperation back body drop to send Austin flying into the front row and then adds a shot with the ring bell. Surprisingly Austin doesn’t come up bleeding from that, which you think they might have done being that it would mirror Austin’s bloody bout from Mania 13 and would give him even more of a mountain to climb in order to win.
In a funny moment, the crowd chants “Holyfield” as a way to annoy Tyson. Shawn is clearly struggling due to his back now, but he keeps plugging away and takes a big bump over the top rope when Austin flings him over. This allows Shawn to trip Austin up when he comes to get him however and he goes after the challengers heavily braced left leg by ramming it into the ring post. Shawn stays on the leg back inside the ring and eventually locks in the Figure Four Leg Lock, to some scattered Woo’s from the crowd.
Austin manages to turn the Figure Four over and the catapults Shawn into the corner for two, only to then get locked in a sleeper. I actually love the story being told here, with Shawn trying to use holds and veteran smarts to keep the aggressive brawling Austin from trying to get any momentum going. Chioda gets squished in the corner, leaving us with no ref, as Austin makes a minor comeback only for Shawn to (just barely) get the running forearm. He does deliver a doctor befuddling kip up though before heading to the top for an elbow drop.
Shawn teases the Sweet Chin Music, but Austin dodges it and we get the counter sequence immortalised in the opening of WrestleMania 2000 for the N64, as Austin eventually catches the kick and swings Shawn around into a Stunner. Tyson turns on DX by counting the pin and the Austin Era begins.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
I don’t think this match is universally that popular, but I’ve always enjoyed it. I love the psychology on display from Shawn to try and take Austin down and I’m always impressed that he was able to gut through the match with such an injury. For the most part Shawn still bumped around like normal as well, although you could really tell he was struggling by the end. I’ve had back issues in the past and I could barely lift anything when mine flared up, so to think that Shawn went into the ring and wrestled for 20 minutes whilst also getting clobbered for large chunks of it is super impressive in my opinion.
Shawn is unhappy at Tyson’s betrayal and tries to punch him, but Tyson blocks it and delivers a punch of his own before raising Austin’s hand just to give him that extra rub. This was a great bit of business and an excellent match to boot!
Champ: The Rock Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
After winning the WWF Title at the previous WrestleMania, Austin was forced to climb back up to the mountain after losing the belt in September of 1998. Along the way he was screwed out of winning the Deadly Game (Oh it’s a Deadly Game!) tournament at Survivor Series 1998 by the McMahon Family. Rock would eventually win the tournament but then side with the McMahon’s to deny the fans his much anticipated babyface run. Rock traded the belt with Mankind in early 1999 whilst Austin dealt with Undertaker, Vince McMahon and Big Show. Finally though the long build was over at the two top stars in the company would finally meet in the Mania Main Event.
WrestleMania XV is an absolute mess of a Mania in all honesty, and would probably rank as one of my least favourite, but this match at least goes some way to making it tolerable. There was a silly backstory over who the referee would be, which led to Mankind winning a match with Big Show to earn the honour, only to then get battered after the match and taken away in an ambulance. Thus Vince McMahon tried to make himself the referee (delivering the line with evil glee) but WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels put a stop to that and we have Mike Chioda to referee instead. He also bans the entire Corporation, aside from Vince himself, from ringside for the match.
I really do hate the set for Mania XV actually, as it’s just a metal sign dangling. It just looks a bit dull, although it is made use of at one point. Rock interrupts Austin’s entrance and the fight is on. LET THE PUNCHING COMMENCE! Vince made this a No DQ match on Heat, so all the brawling is not only allowed but actively encouraged. We get some crowd brawling, because it’s a WWF Main Event from 1999, and that leads to both men brawling down the aisle, where Austin flings Rock into the Mania sign to leave it swinging. You could actually do that on the Legends of WrestleMania game they brought out a while back.
Eventually Rock is able to give Austin a suplex out on the concrete, with both men landing with an almighty thud, and it’s over to the commentary table for some water spitting. Austin replies by putting The Rock through the Spanish table (Although it takes two attempts), and it looks like we might have the novelty of them actually getting back into the ring. Indeed we do, where Rock promptly gets a Rock Bottom for two. Rock brings a chair into the ring, but Austin fights him off and tries to use the chair himself, only for poor Mike Chioda to get locked instead and we have no ref.
Rock works over a downed Austin with the chair and then adds a shot to the head with it for a near fall before settling into a chin lock. Austin fights out of that but then runs into a Samoan Drop for two from new ref Tim White, which causes Rock to lay him out. Austin quickly catches Rock with a Stunner, but new ref Earl Hebner only gets to two before the kick out. This brings down Vince McMahon for a distraction, which allows Rock to go low on Austin. Vince comes into the ring and clocks Hebner before helping Rock put the boots to Austin.
This is Mankind’s cue to make his return from the hospital to clock Vince and take over as the referee. Rock gets the Rock Bottom again and then preps for The People’s Elbow, but Austin moves out of the way and manages to get another Stunner to finally regain the WWF Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
Rock actually took the majority of the match here, probably because he was losing. They would have much better matches in the future, with this one feeling kind of rushed and more centred around brawling shortcuts, but it was still a fun match and definitely the high point of a generally miserable show.
There we go with 5 more Main Events in the bag, with most of them all being good this time as well. I’ll hopefully see you all next week when I cover Mania’s 2000 to XX!