11 WrestleMania Matches That Surprisingly Didn’t Main Event

The main event of WrestleMania not only provides the battleground for deciding the outcome of the biggest WWE storyline of the season, but it also carries the potential to push a wrestler into superstardom. It’s a ticket to immortality.

However, there have been many significant WrestleMania bouts that surprisingly did not occur in the main event. Be it the names involved in the matches or the legacies they have left behind, the fact that these eleven matches didn’t go on last will forever astound.

1. WrestleMania VII (1991): The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage – Retirement Match

Not only was this match a showdown between two of WWF’s biggest superstars from the late ’80s, but it was also the added stipulation that made the stakes much higher. The loser of the bout would have to retire.

The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII. [Photo: WWE.com]
Both Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage were immensely popular among the fans, and all eyes were on this bout.

The match has been remembered in the history books because of a frequently-recalled WrestleMania moment, which saw the reunion of "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth.

The match itself was a classic and has managed, over the years, to overshadow the main event of the night featuring Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter (c) for the WWF Championship.

2. WrestleMania VIII (1992): Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (c) – WWF Championship

"The Nature Boy" defending his WWF Championship against the "Macho Man" at WrestleMania? It sounds like a befitting main event.

Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (c) at WrestleMania VIII.
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (c) at WrestleMania VIII. [Photo: WWE.com]
WWF officials initially believed the same way, and the match was scheduled to be the main event. However, the spot was later given to Hulk Hogan and Sycho Sid, who competed in a singles match dubbed as Hogan’s last match in the WWF.

 

The WWF Championship was decided in the sixth match of the night, in a card that consisted of ten matches. The match garnered infamy as Flair bladed himself right in front of the camera when WWF was especially strict about their "no blood" policy.

3. WrestleMania X (1994): Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (c) – Ladder Match for the Undisputed WWF Intercontinental Championship

Very few wrestling fans are unaware of the classic ladder match between the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels and "The Bad Guy" Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship.

The image of Michaels jumping off the ladder to hit a splash on Ramon will forever stand as a symbol of WrestleMania.

An iconic moment captured during the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match at WrestleMania X.
An iconic moment captured during the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match at WrestleMania X. [Photo: WWE.com]
This match, which pushed Michaels to superstardom, was the second last bout of the show. But it has managed to overshadow the main event of the night, which saw Yokozuna defend his WWF Championship against Bret Hart.

4. WrestleMania 13 (1997): Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin – No DQ Submission Match

This is another classic WrestleMania bout that etched itself in history as one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time was not the main event.

Anything said about the Submission match between "The Hitman" Bret Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would be saying less. This was the match that turned Steve Austin into a megastar. And it was also the match that arguably kick-started the Attitude Era.

Bret Hart locks Steve Austin in the sharpshooter at the culmination of their epic match at WrestleMania 13.
Bret Hart locks Steve Austin in the sharpshooter at the culmination of their epic match at WrestleMania 13. [Photo: TheSportster.com]
The image of Austin locked in the Sharpshooter, screaming in pain with blood rolling down his face, unwilling to give up, has been a representative symbol of the Attitude Era and, by extension, of professional wrestling itself.

 

The match was the sixth match in a card that consisted of eight matches, and the main event of the show featured Undertaker and Sycho Sid (c) for the WWF Championship. However, no match from the event has been able to overshadow this era-defining match between Hart and Austin.

5. WrestleMania X8 (2002): Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock – Icon vs. Icon Match

This was a match nobody had ever imagined they would see. Two megastars who defined two generations of professional wrestling were set to go one-on-one at The Showcase of the Immortals.

"The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment" The Rock vs. "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan.

The Attitude Era vs. The Golden Era.

Icon vs. Icon.

A match too big for WrestleMania.

It was also the match featured on the promotional poster of the show. But surprisingly, it was not the main event of the night.

The Rock and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Icon vs. Icon. One of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time.
The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Icon vs. Icon. It was one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time.

The original Icon vs. Icon match was planned to be between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan.

If there could be any dream match bigger than Rock vs. Hogan, this would be it. But Austin refused to work in the match, as he believed that he and Hogan had different wrestling styles and would never be able to deliver a good match, spoiling the fans’ expectations.

Jim Ross has said this about Austin’s decision in an episode of his podcast, Grilling JR. "Austin had it in his mind that Hogan’s style and Austin’s style were oil and water. He just didn’t feel the chemistry. Austin was never about having good matches."

Ross continued, "Austin was about having great matches. It didn’t happen because Steve didn’t push for it."

The match between Rock and Hogan, however, was as magical as it could get. Austin later expressed his regrets about not being a part of that magic in an episode of The Steve Austin Show.

"I was in such a different headspace when that window of opportunity presented itself. It should have happened."

The night’s main event featured Triple H vs. Chris Jericho (c) for the Undisputed WWF Championship, which has been overshadowed by the match that preceded it – The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan.

Related read: The Rock and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 – The Real Story

6. WrestleMania XIX (2003): The Rock vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

The Rock vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The names in this one are enough.

The Rock faces off against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in what would become his final-ever match at WrestleMania 19.
The Rock faces off against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in what would become his final-ever match at WrestleMania 19. [Photo: Bleacher Report]
The biggest rivals in wrestling history – the biggest stars in sports entertainment – Stone Cold and The Rock: the men who defined the Attitude Era were set to face each other for one last time.

 

As a perfect conclusion to their legendary rivalry, one would expect the final match of the Rock-Austin WrestleMania trilogy to be the main event. But it was not so.

What proved to be the last singles wrestling bout in Steve Austin’s career, the match took place at the second last spot of the card. The main event of the night saw Kurt Angle defend his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar, a match regarded as one of the best wrestling matches in WrestleMania history.

Related read: The Rock and Steve Austin – Rivals in the Ring, Brothers in Life

7. WrestleMania 21 (2005): Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle

As it has been seen, sometimes the names involved in a match are enough to make people assume that it took place in the main event. This match between the Olympic Gold Medallist Kurt Angle and "Mr. WrestleMania" Shawn Michaels is one such match.

The story began at that year’s Royal Rumble when Michaels eliminated Angle from the rumble match just a few minutes after the latter had entered into the ring.

Angle would then screw Michaels out of the match, viciously attacking him and leaving him in a bloody mess. Both the superstars’ dreams of main-eventing WrestleMania were shattered.

This ignited a rivalry whose end was to be decided at the Biggest Stage of Them All.

Kurt Angle with the Angle Lock applied to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21, April 3rd, 2005.
Kurt Angle with the Angle Lock applied to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21, April 3rd, 2005.

This, too, had the feel of a big "Past vs. Present" match, and the two technical wrestlers ensured that nobody was left not entertained. The match has since then been remembered as one of the best matches in WrestleMania history.

The night’s main event saw two former evolution members, Batista and Triple H (c), square off against each other for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Related read: Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels Embarrassing First Encounter

8. WrestleMania XXIV (2008): Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair – Career Threatening Match

The stakes were unbelievably high walking into WrestleMania 24, as it was inevitable that one of the two legends competing in the match — Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair — would have to retire by the end of the night.

Both men had cemented their legacies as immortal legends, but one of their careers would have to end.

Sweet Chin Music delivered in the final moments of the iconic retirement match between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24.
Sweet Chin Music delivered in the final moments of the iconic retirement match between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24. [Photo:
The intense emotions run throughout the classic match between "The Show Stopper" and the "Nature Boy."

 

Every wrestling fan is familiar with the "I’m sorry, I love you," followed by the Sweet Chin Music, which brought upon a touching conclusion to the Nature Boy’s illustrious wrestling career. The match, however, was the sixth match in a card of ten.

At the main event, The Undertaker defended his World Heavyweight Championship against Edge, another classic match.

9. WrestleMania XXIV (2008): John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton (c) – WWE Championship

WrestleMania 24 was a pretty stacked event, featuring multiple matches that had main event caliber. Apart from the HBK-Flair match, another match that gets frequently mistaken as the main event is the triple threat match between John Cena, Triple H, and Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.

John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton (c) at WrestleMania 24.
John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton (c) at WrestleMania 24. [Photo: IMDB.com]
Quick and fast-paced, there wasn’t a single dull moment in the match, and the participants gave all they had to score the WWE Championship gold.

 

This was the eighth match of the night, whose main event has already been discussed above.

10. WrestleMania XXVIII (2012): CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Championship

"The fact that Dwayne is in the main event of WrestleMania and I’m not makes me sick!"

– CM Punk

Everybody remembers CM Punk’s pipebomb promo. One of the many things that he was upset about was the main event of WrestleMania 28.

And so, after Punk won the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 2011 and managed to remain the champion throughout WrestleMania season, the fans expected him to do something about the main event, which did not feature him – the WWE Champion. But surprisingly, nothing of the sort happened.

CM Punk delivers a GTS to Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 28.
CM Punk delivers a GTS to Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 28. [Photo: Bleacher Report]
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho was a tremendous match and could have been a perfect fit for the main event of WrestleMania. However, WWE decided to stick to the planned "Once in a Lifetime" main event featuring The Rock and John Cena.

 

Although Rock/Cena was a match quite deserving of the main event spot, it was also a slight to WWE Champion CM Punk.

Related read: Chris Jericho and Fandango – The Truth Behind WrestleMania Loss

11. WrestleMania 34 (2018): Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles – WWE Championship

Before joining WWE, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were two of the biggest wrestling stars outside the company. While Styles conquered the world with his phenomenal wrestling, Nakamura was one of the biggest stars produced by New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Their paths had crossed once in NJPW, where the two engaged in an incredible battle over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at NJPW’s biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 10 (2016).

Nobody back then could have imagined that two years later, these two icons would face each other once again inside a WWE ring. But they did. And it wasn’t just at any WWE pay-per-view, but at The Show of the Immortals, WrestleMania.

After Shinsuke Nakamura won the 2018 Royal Rumble match, the main event of WrestleMania 34 was decided. It would be "The King of Strong Style" Shinsuke Nakamura vs. "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles for the WWE Championship.

AJ Styles faces off against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania 34 for the WWE Championship.
AJ Styles faces off against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania 34 for the WWE Championship. [Photo: WWE.com
The match was advertised as the main event for only a month or so, after which it got replaced by Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (c) for the Universal Championship.

 

There have been several other matches throughout the history of WrestleMania which could have fit into the main event. But like we’ve grown accustomed to learning with the WWE, you can always expect the unexpected!

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Aditya Modak is a writer and independent filmmaker out of Tripura, India. Storytelling is his passion, and he turns into a nerd whenever it comes to professional wrestling! He enjoys writing horror and sci-fi fiction, will soon be pursuing a master's degree in Literature or Film Studies, and recently published his debut sci-fi horror novel entitled "Arachnid." He can be reached by e-mail at admodak10@gmail.com, on Instagram @modakadityaa, and on YouTube @ADModak.