6. Mr. T “boxes” Rowdy Roddy Piper (1986)
Nearly a year after they were on opposing teams in the main event of the first WrestleMania, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T were still getting under each other’s skin. With a camera rolling Piper visited T on the set of The A-Team and pushed his buttons so hard the mohawked one got physical with him. (Good thing they weren’t alone during that shoot.) When Piper’s bodyguard, Cowboy Bob Orton, started dabbling in boxing, T wanted to take him on. After their brief contest during a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping, T was in a whole heap of trouble. With Orton holding him down, The Rowdy One whipped him repeatedly with T’s own belt.
Inevitably, all of this led to another significant WrestleMania moment: the supercard’s first proper rematch. Granted, in retrospect, a worked boxing match was a terrible idea. Since these guys genuinely despised each other, why wouldn’t they be allowed to have a legit fight? It might not have been very long but it would’ve been a hell of a lot more gripping than what actually transpired. (At one point late in the bout, T very clearly missed a roundhouse left which Piper oversold so much he fell out of the ring. When he came back in he legitimately whipped his corner stool right at T’s legs in a fit of anger.)
Regardless of the bad booking, the WrestleMania rematch would become a significant element of future shows. After retaining his WWF title against Andre The Giant at WM 3, Hulk Hogan would face him again in the opening match of the second round of the WM 4 title tournament that would ultimately lead to the crowning of a new champion. (They wrestled to a double DQ.)
At WrestleMania 9, Bret Hart lost his first WWF championship to Yokozuna but at WrestleMania X, he regained the belt in a rematch. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin had 3 matches at the “Showcase Of The Immortals”. The Texas Rattlesnake won the WWF title from The People’s Champion in a No DQ bout at WrestleMania 15. Then, in another No DQ match at WrestleMania 17, Austin beat The Rock for the title once again. Finally, in what was Austin’s farewell match in the WWE, Rock was the winner in the third battle at WrestleMania 19.
In one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, The Dudley Boyz defended their tag team titles against Edge & Christian and The Hardys in a Triangle Ladder Match at WrestleMania 2000. E & C came out on top. With the stipulation renamed a Tables, Ladders and Chairs (or TLC) match, all three teams went at it one more time at WrestleMania 17. Once again, Edge & Christian won the titles from those damned Dudleys.
At WrestleMania XX, John Cena took away The Big Show’s United States Championship. Five years later, they would battle again for the WWE title against Edge in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania 25. Cena won that one, as well. The one-time Doctor Of Thuganomics would make Triple H tap out in the WrestleMania 22 WWE title match but when they faced off again to try to dethrone then-champion Randy Orton in a Triple Threat encounter at WrestleMania 24, The Viper was victorious. Speaking of Orton, he would have his own one-on-one rematch with Triple H the following year at WM 25. The Game came out on top.
The one superstar who has had the most WrestleMania rematches is The Undertaker. At WM 14 and 20, he faced off against his brother, Kane. At 25 and 26, he had two classic confrontations with longtime rival, Shawn Michaels. And then, there’s Triple H. The Dead Man squared off against him at WrestleMania 17 and 27. At WM 28, they’ll grind it out one more time in a Hell In A Cell match with Michaels as the guest referee.
As long as there are rivalries worthy of revisiting, the WrestleMania rematch is here to stay.
7. The British Bulldogs and The Dream Team steal the show (1986)
The steel cage match between Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy for the WWF Championship was the biggest selling point for WrestleMania 2. The whole show was built around this highly anticipated main event. But when it came down to it, it wasn’t the best match on the card. That honour belonged to the tag team title match between The Dream Team and The British Bulldogs.
Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine started teaming up in the summer of 1985 and very quickly were pushed for the titles over two-time champs, the U.S. Express, during an event at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Shortly thereafter, Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid challenged them repeatedly in championship confrontations on TV and the house show circuit. No matter what, though, they always came up short.
By April 7, 1986, at the Chicago portion of WM 2, the time was right to put them over. Booked as the eighth confrontation on the show, in just a little over 10 minutes both teams put on a clinic in a fast paced, highly competitive bout that remains one of the most talked about matches in WrestleMania history.
The following year, Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat topped them in their superb struggle for the InterContinental Championship. Even though WrestleMania III was supposed to be about Hulk and Andre, as The Dragon recalled on his recent DVD, the guys in the dressing room congratulated himself and The Macho Man for a job well done. No one praised Hogan and The Giant for their sluggish efforts.
Ever since, talent that’s been booked for slots before the main event nonetheless treat their matches as the most important on the whole card with the hope of stealing the overall show. As a result, there have been numerous WrestleManias where the most respected battles don’t always happen at the end of the night.
Consider the retirement match between The Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage at WrestleMania 7 which overshadowed the Hulk Hogan/Sgt. Slaughter WWF title match, Bret Hart facing brother Owen in the opener of WrestleMania X as well as the Ladder Match for the IC title between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels which stole the thunder of the two Yokozuna title matches, the Bret Hart/Steve Austin Submission match generating more excitement and heat than the Sycho Sid/Undertaker main event at WM 13, the first TLC match for the tag titles at WrestleMania 2000 being more significant than the Fatal 4-Way WWF title bout, Hulk and The Rock inspiring a much hotter crowd than Chris Jericho and Triple H at WM 18, Jericho and Shawn Michaels receiving better reviews than Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle at WM 19, and The Undertaker’s epic confrontations with Michaels and Triple H at WM 25 and 27, respectively. The Orton/H and Miz/Cena WWE Championship matches were just not as memorable.
As we get closer to WrestleMania 28, which match on the undercard will audiences and critics lap up more than Rock and Cena? The safe bet is Jericho and CM Punk. But then again, you just don’t know until you see the show.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, March 11, 2012
CORRECTION: It was actually a roundhouse left, not a right, that completely missed Roddy Piper’s head. My memory failed me on that one. My apologies for the mistake. The correction has been added to the text.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, March 18, 2012