The WWE Championship. It has been synonymous with greatness in professional wrestling for over 50 years. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, The Undertaker, John Cena, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Triple H. The greatest of the greats have held this title. The title is never more prestigious than when it is defended at WrestleMania. The WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania is often looked at as the biggest match of the year as it often headlines the Showcase of the Immortals, which is the biggest night on the WWE calendar. That’s why I’m here to honor those matches and the great men that have competed for the most prestigious crown in all of professional wrestling.
This is a countdown of all 30 WWF/E Championship matches in WrestleMania history. There have been 29 previous WrestleManias. The first WrestleMania did not have a Championship Match while WrestleManias IX and X had two title matches. That’s where the 30 comes from. Since I wrote nearly 8,000 words, I’m going to break the countdown into two parts. You will see matches 30- 16 now and the rest of the countdown will be posted Thursday evening. So, without any further ado, here is the countdown of all 30 WWF/E Championship Matches at WrestleMania.
30. WrestleMania X: Yokozuna defeated Lex Luger via Disqualification to retain the WWF Championship. Mr. Perfect served as the guest referee. 14:41 (3/4*)
Good God this was awful and has the dubious distinction of being the worst WWF/E Championship match in WrestleMania history. The match that follows this on the countdown barely qualifies as a match but they tried to create a moment with that. This match I think they tried to create a world record for PPV refund requests.
Vince McMahon tried to make Lex Luger into his new Hulk Hogan in 1993 and it failed miserably. He gave Lex a bus and a main event Championship match at SummerSlam but Luger never connected with the fans and he never won the title. Vince knowing the Luger experiment was a failure gave him another title match at WrestleMania X after having the genius idea of having Bret Hart and Luger tie at the 1994 Royal Rumble. I can understand the idea of building WrestleMania around two WWF Championship matches but Luger vs. Yokozuna was not the way to go about it. Despite this match only lasting about 15 minutes, Yoko held Luger in a 47 minutes nerve hold. True story. Luger finally got out of the never hold and body slammed the massive Champion and hit him with that loaded forearm and it looked like Lex was going to become the new Champion but both of Yoko’s managers, Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji came on the apron to distract Luger and the referee, Mr. Perfect. Luger tossed both men in the ring and went for the cover. When Perfect didn’t make the count because he was checking on Fuji and Cornette, Luger turned around Perfect to show him he should be making a count. Instead of counting Luger as the new WWF Champion, he disqualified him for putting his hands on a WWF official. What a waste of 15 minutes but at least Yokozuna become the first WWF Champion since Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III to successfully retain the title at WrestleMania.
29. WrestleMania IX: Hulk Hogan pinned Yokozuna to become the NEW WWF Champion. :25 (No Rating)
Yokozuna had just beat Bret Hart to become the new WWF Champion (we’ll get to that match shortly) and Hulk Hogan came out to check on his friend Bret Hart who was blinded by Mr. Fuji’s ceremonial salt. Then for some unknown reason, Fuji thought it was a good idea to challenge Hogan to a title match some 60 seconds after Yoko won the. Hogan got Hart’s blessing and entered the ring. There was no bell rung but after Yoko tasted the salt to the eyes, Hogan hit a clothesline and dropped the big leg to become the new WWF Champion in just 25 seconds. There was no bell to signal the end of the match either. It was one of the bigger debacles in WrestleMania history and I say that as a huge Hulk Hogan fan so I can only imagine what others that don’t like Hogan feel about the match.
28. WrestleMania X: Bret Hart pinned Yokozuna to become the NEW WWF Champion. Roddy Piper served as the guest referee. 10:33 (*)
The only reason this match wasn’t as big of a disaster as the previous WWF Title match at WrestleMania X is because Bret Hart is a 1,000 times better wrestler than Lex Luger. Yoko and Bret had a really passable title match at WrestleMania IX (still to come on the countdown) but that was a year and 100 pounds ago for Yoko and Yoko didn’t have to suffer through a 15 minute match beforehand. I bet if you ask Vince McMahon for an honest answer, he’ll admit that having Yokozuna wrestle twice at WrestleMania X was a big mistake.
Bret was grounded for most of the match but got a few close calls with a second rope bulldog and the Hart Attack clothesline. Yokozuna was so gassed at this point. You really felt bad for the big guy. Hart got caught in a massive belly to belly suplex and Yoko looked to end the match with the Bonzai Drop but he slipped off the rope and Hart made the cover and that was enough for Hart to regain the WWF Championship. It was a very lackluster way to end WrestleMania’s Main Event.
27. WrestleMania 13: The Undertaker pinned Sycho Sid in a No Disqualification Match to become the NEW WWF Champion 23:56 (*1/4)
The Undertaker has had a lot of classic bouts in his WrestleMania career. This was not one of them. This match went almost 24 minutes and it could have been done in ten. The WWF Title picture heading into WrestleMania 13 was a mess. Shawn Michaels beat Sid for the title at the Royal Rumble. Then he forfeited the title in February after a knee injury. Then Bret Hart won the title at the February PPV and then lost in the next night to Sid. Got all that? Undertaker was declared the number one contender for WrestleMania and showed up for this match rocking his old school black and gray attire.
As the bell rung for this match, Bret Hart came to the ring and proceeded to whine a lot which is what he did at the time and he got a Powerbomb from Sid for his troubles. The match was a No DQ match but there was hardly any No DQ moments sans the finish. If they had used weapons it could’ve been a lot better but I guess they didn’t want to go that route because of the Chicago Street Fight that preceded this match. Sid used the ever exciting bear hug and rear chin lock to control the Undertaker. The match was dubbed No DQ so Bret Hart could interfere and cost Sid the match which he did. Taker and Sid were fighting on the floor and Bret came out and hit Sid with a chair twice. After an Undertaker Chokeslam didn’t finish off Sid, Bret came back to the ring and snapped Sid’s neck on the top rope which caused Sid to walk right into a Tombstone and The Undertaker became the new WWF Champion. This was a really boring match with a ridiculous ending because you do that type of finish if you want to start a Hart/Sid feud but this was one of Sid’s last appearances in WWF and Bret continued his feud with Steve Austin.
26. WrestleMania 21: John Cena beat JBL to become the NEW WWE Champion. 11:27 (*1/4)
This is a match that could have accomplished everything it wanted to in just five minutes. Everyone knew that WrestleMania 21 was the coronation of John Cena as the new top guy. This was as much of a foregone conclusion as any match in WrestleMania history.
It’s funny watching this match almost nine years later because the crowd wanted this moment. They wanted Cena as the next WWE Champion. They wanted him to be their guy but by the time the next WrestleMania rolled around, they had turned on him. People don’t realize how quick the “smart” fans turned on Cena. This night however, everyone was in Cena’s corner and he rewarding them by walking out the new WWE Champion by dropping JBL with the move formerly known as the FU ending the “Wrestling God’s” nearly ten month reign.
25. WrestleMania IX: Yokozuna beat Bret Hart to become the NEW WWF Champion. 8:56 (*1/2)
Here’s a little trivia fact for you kids: Yokozuna is the first man to win the Royal Rumble when the winner was guaranteed a Championship match at WrestleMania. Yoko was an impressive physical sight but the problem with being that big is he didn’t move around a lot so his matches were often short and featured a lot of rest holds.
I give Bret Hart all the credit in the world because he worked his butt off to make this match as good as it was. Hart was fighting for his life in the corner and as Yoko was pulling him away, Bret ripped off the turnbuckle exposing the steel underneath. Yoko went to ram Bret’s face into the steel but Bret reversed sending Yoko’s face into the steel. Yoko fell to his belly and Bret somehow locked in the Sharpshooter. With his man in trouble, Mr. Fuji threw some ceremonial salt in the Champion’s eyes forcing him to break the hold. Yoko then rolled over and covered Hart to become the new WWF Champion.
24. WrestleMania 2: Steel Cage Match- Hulk Hogan defeats King Kong Bundy to retain the WWF Championship. 10:04 (*1/2)
I probably enjoyed this match more than most since Bundy is one of my favorite heels of all-time and you all know my love for the Hulkster. It’s not a classic by any stretch but it’s an enjoyable Hogan bout from that era. This match came about after Bundy injured Hogan’s ribs on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. The big story heading into the match was if Hogan returned from the injury too soon. He entered WrestleMania with his ribs taped up and Bundy targeted them early on in the bout. Hogan looked like he was in a lot of trouble when he failed to slam Bundy. In the end though, it was a relatively easy win for the Champion as he hit a big body slam out of the corner and then dropped the big leg. Hogan went to escape the cage and did so successfully despite Bobby Heenan’s attempt to keep him in the ring.
23. WrestleMania XXVII: The Miz beat John Cena to retain the WWE Championship. 19:44 (*3/4)
I give WWE a ton a credit for trying to make this match seem special with the great Cena and Miz video packages that aired before the match. The problem was that no one saw The Miz on Cena’s level. It didn’t help that the feud leading up to this match was centered around Cena and the host of WrestleMania XXVII, The Rock.
The crowd was deadly silent for the match and it was all because everyone was waiting for The Rock to come out and make his presence felt in the match. You knew that he would and that’s why no one reacted when the match ended in a double count out. I mean seriously, when the hell does the main event of WrestleMania end in a double count out? The Rock hit the ring and as soon as he did the damn Computer (remember that stupid angle?) buzzed and Rock went to read the message but declared it didn’t matter what the Computer had to say. He said that as host of WrestleMania he was restarting the match under No Disqualification rules. By this time, Cena and Miz had made it back to the ring and Cena went for an Attitude Adjustment but Miz wiggled out of it and Cena walked right into a Rock Bottom. Miz covered for the three count and retained the WWE Championship and we were on the road to collision that would be “Once” in a Lifetime, Cena vs. The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII.
22. WrestleMania IV: Randy Savage beat Ted DiBiase to win the vacant WWF Championship. 9:18 (*3/4)
WrestleMania IV was built around a 16 man tournament to crown a new WWF Champion. The title was vacated after the highly anticipated Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan rematch. The match took place on the NBC special, The Main Event. Andre ended up winning the WWF Championship in a highly controversial fashion after the infamous twin referees debacle. Then Andre decided to sell the title to Ted DiBiase. President Jack Tunney declared that you can’t sell the Championship so he vacated it and made a 16 man tournament to crown a new Champion at WrestleMania.
Overall, the WrestleMania IV WWF Title tournament was awful. It was filled with short, bad matches. Hogan/Andre III which was scheduled to start the second round of the tournament couldn’t match the magic of their bout at last year’s WrestleMania. Savage and DiBiase met in the tournament final and really weren’t given the time to have a classic match that they were capable of. Andre was in DiBiase’s corner for this match. Savage went for his patented double axe handle from the top rope to the floor but Andre stood in front of DiBiase prevented Savage from hitting the move. Savage then sent his manager, Elizabeth to the locker room to get backup. The backup came in the form of Hulk Hogan. With Hogan at ringside, the sides were even and Savage had the chance to end the match with a flying elbow but he missed and it allowed DiBiase to lock in the Million Dollar Dream. With the Dream applied, Andre tried to take a shot at Savage. The referee saw it and admonished the Giant. With the referee’s back turned, Hogan drilled DiBiase with a steel chair and Savage climbed the top rope and drilled him with the flying elbow and became the new WWF Champion.
21. WrestleMania 25: Triple H pinned Randy Orton to retain the WWE Championship. 23:35 (**)
If you look back on this match, it was one of the better built WWE Championship matches at WrestleMania in the last ten years. Randy Orton won the 2009 Royal Rumble and then declared he would face Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. He claimed this was his chance at revenge after Triple H booted him out of Evolution some five years ago. Orton felt taking the WWE Championship wasn’t enough, he felt he had to make it personal and started to attack members of the McMahon family. He punted Vince and Shane. He RKO’d Stephanie and then to really get under the skin of Hunter, he handcuffed Hunter and made him watch as Orton hit Stephanie with the Hanging DDT and then kissed her unconscious lips. It was such a devious and disturbing thing to that was so fitting of the Orton character. I really enjoyed the build sans the Hunter Home Invasion. The match would figure to be hot. Key word there being "figure".
This match was downright boring. In watching this match for this column I fell asleep not once but twice. Punch, punch, punch, stomp, stomp, punch, stomp, punch. That was the majority of this 23 minute match. This was a tough match to get through. You’d figure they would do big things in the match since they each their finishers in the opening two minutes of the match. That was really the last time the match had any momentum. Orton had SmackDown General Manager, Vicki Guerrero add the stipulation that if Hunter was disqualified or counted out he would lose the Championship. Instead of playing that up to their advantage it was punch, punch, stomp, stomp, punch, stomp, punch. I can’t imagine Triple H and Orton thinking that the match they put together was worthy of the WrestleMania Main Event.
The end of the match occurred when the referee was down and Orton went for Triple H’s trademark sledgehammer. As Orton tried to enter the ring, Hunter punted him and then Hunter smashed the sledgehammer into Orton’s face. Instead of going for the win, Hunter threw about another 20 punches before hitting the Pedigree to finally put this mess to bed.
20. WrestleMania III: Hulk Hogan pins Andre the Giant to retain the WWF Championship. 11:22 (**)
This is such a difficult match to rate. It’s probably the most historically significant match in the history of wrestling but looking at just match quality, it wasn’t that good. This is a match that gets a pass on the quality of the wrestling because of what it meant to the WWF and wrestling in general. However, since I’m ranking the matches based on in-ring work I have to rank this one a lot lower than its historical significance.
The match was almost over in seconds as Hogan tried to slam Andre but Andre fell on top of Hogan and almost got a three count. It’s been said that it’s a controversial moment in WWF/E history that maybe the Giant got a three count but he didn’t. Hogan’s shoulder opposite the referee was clearly up before three. From there Hogan was dominated by the Giant and it looked like the Hulkster was overmatched. Hogan had a brief advantage after Andre head butted the ring post on the floor. Hogan then had the not-so-smart idea to pile drive the Giant on the floor, but Andre easily back dropped Hogan off of him. When the match made it back in the ring, Hogan finally had the match go in his favor. Hogan ducked a big boot by Andre and knocked Andre down with a clothesline. It was a big moment because it was said that Andre the Giant had never been knocked off his feet. When Andre got up, Hulk Hogan body slammed him in what is one of the most famous moments in WWF/E history. Hulk then dropped the big leg to retain his title and end the 15 year undefeated streak of Andre the Giant.
19. WrestleMania VII: Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter to become the NEW WWF Champion. 20:23 (**1/4)
This is probably my favorite match from my childhood so please forgive me if you feel I overrated the match. I was a huge Hulkamaniac as a kid and this was the first PPV I ever saw live so you can imagine my excitement when I saw my hero win the title.
23 years later, reviewing the match for this column, it’s ok at best. Slaughter and Hogan just didn’t mesh very well together. The crowd was hot for the match so it made the match seem better than it probably was. The first 11 minutes of the match saw Hogan completely dominate Slaughter. I don’t think the Champion had any offense during that span. Hogan lost the advantage when he decided to go to the top rope and was distracted by Slaughter’s manager, General Adnan. Slaughter controlled the match from that point on. He even looked to have the title retained when he came off the top with a stomp to Hogan’s kidney. Adnan was on the apron however distracting the referee which didn’t allow him to see his man with the pin attempt. It seemed that Adnan missed his cue because after Hogan kicked out, he went to distract the referee again so Slaughter could hit Hogan with a chair. It seemed as if Adnan went up to the apron just a bit too soon. The chair shot split Hogan wide open and Slaughter went for the kill with the Camel Clutch. Hogan fought out but Slaughter rammed Hogan chest first into the turnbuckle when they got to their feet. Slaughter went to add insult to injury and wanted to pin Hogan with the Iraqi flag on top of him. This woke Hogan up and he Hulked Up, three punches, big boot, leg drop and we had a new WWF Champion.
18. WrestleMania X8: Triple H pinned Chris Jericho to become the NEW Undisputed WWF Champion 18:42 (**3/4)
Triple H and Chris Jericho were caught in a bad spot with this match. They had the unenviable task of having to follow Hulk Hogan and The Rock. The crowd burnt themselves out in that match and they weren’t all that invested in this bout. The guy that had it the worst of the two was Jericho. Despite being the Champion, he was a complete after thought as the match focused on the drama surrounding Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. If Vince McMahon thought he could have gotten away with putting Stephanie in there vs. Triple H I bet you he would have done it.
This match was a foregone conclusion ever since Triple H returned from his quadriceps injury in January. The injury would keep the Game on the shelf for eight months. Hunter returned and won the 2002 Royal Rumble to set up this match. This match was supposed to be his return to glory after a devastating injury. Triple H and Jericho tried but the constant interfering of Stephanie really hurt the flow of the match and it seemed at times that Hunter was more concerned with getting his hands on Stephanie than winning the title. Stephanie had joined forces with Jericho after she felt Triple H neglected her during his eight month rehab process so she figured the way to get him back was to make sure he didn’t win the title. She tried to keep him from winning the title but in the end all she got was a Pedigree for her troubles. Jericho tried to capitalize on Hunter admonishing his estranged wife and got a near fall after blasted Triple H in the face with a chair but a few moments later, Triple H reversed the tide of the match and stuck Jericho with the Pedigree and became the new Undisputed WWF Champion.
17. WrestleMania XXVI: John Cena defeated Batista via Submission to become the NEW WWE Champion. 13:32 (**3/4)
WWE wanted so bad to do this match at WrestleMania that they treated the WWE Championship like the town whore at the Elimination Chamber PPV. That night there was three different WWE Champions. Sheamus walked in as Champion and then Cena won the title in a Chamber Match. Then immediately after the Chamber, Mr. McMahon granted Batista a title match that he won easily.
The match didn’t have the “big match feel” it should have had. These two were the face of the WWE post Attitude Era and a WrestleMania match made sense but some of the luster was taken out of this bout when WWE did the match at the 2008 edition of SummerSlam. This match was on the short side for a WrestleMania title match but for these two it was probably the right amount of time even though they didn’t have the chance to make it a memorable match. Cena looked hurt in the early going as Batista reversed the Attitude Adjustment and spiked him with a DDT. Cena held his neck for a bit and it looked bad because of the way he landed in the DDT. The match built to an exciting conclusion when each man hit their finisher and the other kicked out. Cena went for broke and tried his top rope leg drop but Batista countered it into a Spinebuster. Batista went for another Batista Bomb but Cena countered it into the STF. Batista tapped out and Cena became the new WWE Champion. The submission kind of came out of nowhere because you expected Batista to get to the ropes and there to be another layer to the finish before the match was over but that wasn’t the case and the one STF was enough for Cena to win.
16. WrestleMania XI: Diesel pinned Shawn Michaels to retain the WWF Championship. 20:32 (***1/4)
There’s only been five WrestleManias in which a World Title match didn’t close the show. It’s rare but sometimes there is something that is more important than the title. For WrestleMania XI, Vince McMahon got the greatest defensive player of all-time in the NFL (go ahead and call me a homer because I’m a Giants fan, but it is true) Lawrence Taylor to work the main event against Bam Bam Bigelow. So, Diesel, Shawn Michaels and the WWF Title took a backseat at WrestleMania XI. That’s ok though because it wasn’t Shawn’s time yet. That would be next year.
This was a good match but you could see the Michaels was on another level as Diesel had trouble keeping up with him. That hurt the match a bit. Michaels eventually fell to Diesel’s Powerbomb and didn’t walk away with the gold but what he did walk away with was Vince McMahon’s faith. This was the night Michaels proved he could be a main event player and the next night on RAW, plans were put in motion to make Shawn the next top babyface.
That will conclude Part One of our countdown of all 30 WWF/E Championship Matches at WrestleMania. I hope you’ve enjoyed the countdown thus far. I’ll be back with Part Two, the 15 best WWF/E Championship Matches at WrestleMania this Tuesday.
(That’s what she said.)
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