The main event. It’s the match that brings everyone to the show. Sure, there are matches here and there that attract fans to a wrestling show, but the main event is the meat and potatoes, and they don’t get much bigger than the main event of a WrestleMania. Over the past couple of weeks, Notes from the Nosebleeds has looked at past WrestleMania matches, some over exaggerated in quality, and others overlooked. When it comes to the list of WrestleMania main events, there are so many that are important and legendary, but there are a handful that, even though they were the main event of their show, they have managed to get lost in the shuffle.
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (Steel Cage match for the WWF Championship, WrestleMania II from the Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, CA)
The first WrestleMania was hard to top. Even harder was to top the enormous clash between Hogan and Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. Being sandwiched in between those two shows has resulted in the Hogan-Bundy cage match left behind when fans talk about good Mania main events. The first Mania saw a tag team match headline the show. For the second Mania, the title was on the line, and inside of a cage. Hogan had his ribs injured before the match, leaving him vulnerable for the monstrous Bundy to prey on. The Hulkster fought through the agony and came back against Bundy, finally escaping the cage for the win. Afterwards, Hogan caught Bobby Heenan in the cage, where he got his hands on the villainous manager. Looking at the overall story, it is a tale of a wounded hero fighting the odds, in a steel cage no less, and overcoming, then getting his hands on the most hated man in the business, something fans across the country had wanted to do. It was professional wrestling at its best.
Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Savage (WWF Championship tournament finals, WrestleMania IV from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ)
This show was very important in WWE history. It was the first WrestleMania that was not headlined by Hulk Hogan. It was also important for the company to take the title off of Hogan and put it on a new star, allowing for a new story to develop. Hogan and Savage would go on to form the Mega Powers. It was all part of an incredible story to build a friendship, and then deconstruct it for a climactic clash the following year when WrestleMania returned to Trump Plaza. At WrestleMania IV, Ted DiBiase was the favorite on the heel side, while Hogan was the favorite on the baby face side. After Hogan went to a draw with Andre, DiBiase looked to have the tournament won. The match started off with Savage trying to concentrate on DiBiase, only to be distracted by Andre the Giant at ringside. Savage sent Elizabeth to seek backup. A few moments later, she returned with Hogan. The odds were now even. Savage and DiBiase tore into each other. Andre and Hogan got involved in the finish, resulting in Savage coming out with the championship.
Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (WWF Championship match, WrestleMania IX from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV and WrestleMania X from Madison Square Garden in New York)
After eight WrestleMania events with Hulk Hogan featured prominently on the show, WrestleMania IX was set to be the first with no Hogan involvement. That would turn out not to be the case, but Bret Hart and Yokozuna had a very good match leading up to Hogan’s involvement. Instead of the red, white and blue ropes, black and yellow were in their place. A new monster was challenging a new champion. Hart hit the offensive early, taking it to Yoko with punches and kicks, and then managing to tangle the big man’s feet in the ropes to knock him down. Yokozuna quickly gained the upper hand and began dismantling Hart. Bret resorted to strategy. When Yoko went to pull him out of the corner, Bret pulled off the turnbuckle pad, and then rammed Yoko’s head into the exposed metal. That gave Bret the advantage to apply the Sharpshooter, but Mr. Fuji threw salt in Hart’s eyes, allowing Yokozuna to gain the win and WWF Championship.
WrestleMania has seen a few repeat matches. The most obvious would be Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and The Rock vs. Steve Austin. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna is a forgotten Mania feud. Their match in 1993, while featured on an underwhelming show, was still very good. Their rematch at WrestleMania X would see Bret regain the championship. This time, Yokozuna was on the offensive right off the bat. After a year on top, Yoko had become more intense and an all-around better wrestler. Having Roddy Piper as a special referee made for a nice change, as did whatever Jim Cornette was wearing that night in MSG. Yokozuna had taken Hart down with an incredible belly to belly suplex, then positioned him for the Banzai Drop. As he climbed the ropes, Yoko lost his balance and fell to the mat with Hart managing to move out of the way just in time. Hart capitalized by hooking the leg and getting the pin. It was a great finish. Both men had wrestled earlier in the night so they would be exhausted, but Hart, given his size, would have the advantage. Fuji had cost Hart the title at WMIX, and now with Cornette at ringside, Bret was up against incredible odds. That changed when Piper knocked out Cornette with a punch after being pulled out of the ring. With Fuji still on the outside, it was expected he would get involved, but Yokozuna appeared to have the match under control. When Yoko lost his footing, there was no telling what would happen next. Hart capitalized too quickly and took the title. Today, we are used to seeing guys kick out of each other’s finishing moves over and over again. Bret Hart and Yokozuna managed to take a WrestleMania rematch, and make it new and unpredictable.