When the WWE comes up with a concept such as “Best WrestleMania Main Events” on DVD you just have to accept that it’s unlikely that their choices will match with yours. It would be impossible under normal circumstances, or to agree on a list of ten matches with your mates around the table whilst having a drink. When the WWE’s version of history comes into play it’s anybody’s guess.
So rather than dissect the who’s and the why’s, let’s just see if this compilation stacks up on the quality front.
We kick off with a match that, well, isn’t very good. But by the same token, no such compilation as this could exclude it. I, of course, talk about WrestleMania 3 and Hulk Hogan against Andre The Giant. It’s one of the most famous matches in wrestling history so is fully deserving of its inclusion here. On that basis, if the need is to include one main event from the “Hogan era” you can’t go anywhere else. Nearly 35 years on it doesn’t hold up that well at all and anyone who has hopped aboard the WWE train in the past decade or so will wonder what all the fuss is about. But it’s a nice nod to the past when a few simple moves and gestures could ignite a crowd.
It’s followed up by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 12. Now, this is one that divides opinion. Some think it’s one of the greatest matches of all time. Others think it’s a boring encounter that only livens up in the last ten minutes. As ever the reality is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. It would have undoubtedly have benefitted from more falls being included in the main hour. Or indeed, any! After this, the WWE would pack such matches with incidents and you can see why. Yet there is no denying the effort put in by both men and if you watch it with an appreciation for the more technical side of wrestling you should get something out of it.
WrestleMania 17 sees The Rock against Stone Cold Steve Austin in the second of their WM trilogy. It’s the most famous of the three (although match quality wise I might give the edge to the WM 19 version) and it’s another one that is simply an astounding spectacle. You can play hindsight booking all you want about Stone Cold’s heel turn but it certainly seemed the right thing at the time.
The WrestleMania 19 main event is perhaps most remembered for THAT Shooting Star Press moment than anything else but it would seem unfair on Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar to remember it only for that. It’s a great match that has a different feel to it than most on this collection, aided by both men’s stints in amateur wrestling and all that.
WrestleMania 23 sees Shawn Michaels against John Cena, a match for the WWE Championship that sees the tag team champions colliding with each other. It’s tempting to say that Shawn running rings around Cena in a wrestling sense throughout this match is a critique of sorts but actually it just works well as a storyline. There’s definitely a big match feel to this and it still plays off when watched today.
Edge against The Undertaker from WrestleMania 24 is one of my personal favourite WrestleMania Main Events. It has a feel of a WWE main event from a decade or so earlier but allies that with top-notch modern wrestling to give the feel of getting the best of all worlds. It’s difficult to feel it years later but you can see that the two, despite the inevitability of Taker’s win at this point in time, get the fans to bite on the possibility that Edge might retain the title. Perhaps not the most famous match on this list by any means, but it’s still a very good one.
They had met the year before but that wasn’t the main event so here they are from WrestleMania 26, with The Undertaker’s Streak on the line against Shawn Michaels’ career. There is a danger when a match is this good and gets brought up so much that it can become lessened by overkill; that you can have too much of a good thing. But its ubiquity is well deserved. It’s an almost flawless match that drips with emotion and storyline and manages to match the excellence of the previous year and add even more to it.
We skip forward to WrestleMania 30 next and the Randy Orton, Batista and Daniel Bryan triple threat. You can argue all you want about how the WWE got here (and whether or not this was a well-made plan or an example of indifferent booking being swung around by sheer fan devotion) but it makes for one hell of a spectacle.
WrestleMania 31’s Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns may well be on for what happens at the conclusion with Seth Rollins’ Money in the Bank Cash-in but again there is a big fight feel to what goes on before it and it’s certainly enjoyable to watch the super-stiff action.
We end with WrestleMania 35 and the triple threat match between Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. I wasn’t one of those complaining that Charlotte was put in there with the other two; from a match quality point of view, it was more than understandable. The match itself is very good without ever quite threatening to become an all-time classic. And a few years down the line I still don’t know what they were trying to achieve by the “disputed” finish (well, other than protecting Rousey) but whilst there would be no one saying it’s the greatest Mania main event of all time, it’s still a very good one.
So whatever the gripes about what is and what isn’t included here, as a compilation of matches this is a very good one, with varied action and lots to enjoy. Are these the “best WrestleMania main events” ever? Maybe not, but given the obvious WWE considerations when putting things like this together it’s certainly worth a watch.
8 out of 10
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE. Thank you to WWE Home Video for our review copy of The Best Of WrestleMania Main Events which is out Monday 19 July on DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.
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