With WrestleMania XXXIII now just around the corner, what better time to look back at the history of WrestleMania – and more specifically, at some of the problems that the Showcase of the Immortals has experienced over the decades.
Since beginning life back in 1985, WrestleMania has gone on to become the hands-down biggest event in the wrestling calendar. From the culmination of lengthy rivalries, to huge dream matches, to celebrity appearances, to the realisation of childhood dreams, to shocking moments, to emotional rollercoaster rides, ‘Mania is deemed the be-all and end-all of the wrestling year.
That’s not to say that the event has always gone off without a hitch, though. During its history, there have been some huge problems for WrestleMania, and there’s been plenty of moments that have left the WWE and its superstars red-faced and embarrassed. Sometimes these moments have merely been slight blimps on the radar, other times they have been misguided ideas, while other times there have been some major mess ups that have left the PPV tainted.
So, with all of that in mind, it’s time to have a look back at the 16 biggest problems and mistakes that WrestleMania has seen during its 33-year run.
16. Explosive Finale
For some unfortunate souls attending WrestleMania XXIV, they were well and truly left with a lifelong memory from the Showcase of the Immortals.
As the 2008 edition of the PPV came to a close, a celebratory dose of fireworks were let off to mark the occasion. What actually happened, though, was that part of those fireworks went rogue and ended up shooting into the audience.
The technicalities of it suggest that a line rocket went wrong, causing the fireworks device to fall into the watching crowd. Several people were injured as a result, although serious injury or worse was luckily avoided, meaning that the WWE dodged a huge bullet with this massive misdemeanour.
15. Hardcore Howler
In the scheme of greater WrestleMania history, 2000’s sixteenth edition was a so-so show at best, and it’s one that’s largely forgotten about by most fans. With a McMahon-centric four-way main event, the show was simply dull for large periods and was lacking in top quality matches bar the memorable Ladder Match between Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and The Dudley Boyz.
Adding to the wonky nature of the show was the bout for the Hardcore Title. The plan was for Hardcore Holly to pin Crash Holly only for the time limit buzzer to go off at the 2-count, meaning Crash was the Hardcore Champion. Instead, the timing was out, Tim White stopped his count at 2 despite Crash not making any attempt to kick out, and in the confusion Hardcore Holly was awarded the Hardcore Title.
14. WrestleMania Relocation
Heading into WrestleMania VII, the hottest angle revolved around Iraqi sympathiser Sgt. Slaughter bashing the USA and singing the praises of Saddam Hussein – all while he was holding the coveted WWF Championship belt.
Of course, who would be called upon to battle the villainous foreigner-loving Slaughter at the Showcase of the Immortals? Why, that’d be Hulk Hogan, obviously.
The original plan was to have the event pack out the 100,000-strong Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with fans flocking to see Hogan defend the USA’s honour and take down the foreign menace in a huge spectacle.
Ultimately, the show would end up being moved to the vastly smaller Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The WWF claimed that this move was due to security reasons and for fear of somebody shooting Slaughter. In reality, it was because ticket sales were in the toilet, with WrestleMania VII eventually having a crowd of 16,158 people.
13. Sid Kicks Out Of Hogan’s Leg Drop
Even though WrestleMania VIII was billed as a ‘double main event’ show, the one half of said main event that featured the WWF Title was criminally sandwiched into the middle of the PPV. As ever at that point in time, it was Hulk Hogan closing out the show while Ric Flair and Randy Savage battled for the WWF Championship in the middle of the PPV.
The finish for Hogan’s match with Sid Justice was for Hogan to hit Sid with his patented Leg Drop only to have the cover broken up by the nefarious Papa Shango. With the ref calling for the DQ, Justice and Shango would lay a beating on The Hulkster, who would be saved by the returning Ultimate Warrior.
Unfortunately, Shango botched his timing, meaning he didn’t have enough time to get down the lengthy entrance of Indianapolis’ Hoosier Dome. That forced Sid to kick out of Hogan’s Leg Drop, and Harvey Wippleman would get involved to force the DQ… all while Papa Shango confusingly creeped down the aisle.
12. Held Up By The Hulkster
In the annals of wrestling history, very few individuals were as selfish and protective of their spot as Hulk Hogan – and that was certainly the case at WrestleMania IX.
Hogan had been largely absent from the WWF since the previous year’s ‘Mania, but he returned to action at Caesar’s Palace to team with Brutus Beefcake against Money Inc. In the main event, Bret Hart was defending the WWF Championship against the hefty Yokozuna.
A main event of WrestleMania without Hulkamania running wild? Not on Hogan’s watch, brother!
As various reports state, Hogan held up Vince McMahon by saying he wouldn’t wrestle in his advertised opening tag match unless he left the show as the WWF Champion.
Subsequently, Bret would lose the title to Yoko, who was then abruptly challenged by The Hulkster. And as WrestleMania IX came to a close, Hulk Hogan stood as WWF Champion despite only being booked for the show in a brief tag team bout.
11. Ultimo Dragon’s Slip
So, after years of being a huge star in Japan and winning waves of fans across the globe for your work in Mexico and in WCW, you finally make it to the WWE and get the chance to partake in the biggest wrestling show in the world, WrestleMania.
That was the case for Ultimo Dragon, a huge favourite of many savvy wrestling fans and a performer who had won a ridiculous amount of titles and trophies across the world.
WrestleMania XX was the setting, and Dragon was involved in the Cruiserweight Open match. Putting a complete downer on what should’ve been a huge moment, though, was the fact that Ultimate Dragon slipped just as he stepped out into public view for his entrance.
10. Mickie James’ Controversial Taunt
During Mickie James’ initial stint with the WWE, she was brought in as an intense, crazed fan of Trish Stratus, ultimately leading to a great match between the two at WrestleMania XXII. What went wrong, though, is that Mickie would make a particular taunt during the match that had Vince McMahon blowing a gasket backstage.
With Stratus down, James made a motion that’s best described as vagina-licking-esque (hey, you try describing it better!) towards her opponent. Thinking of the controversy and potential PR disaster that lay ahead of him, Vince freaked out, likely popping a shot of coffee and a few quads in the process.
9. Piper And Mr. T Get Rowdy
It’s been long established that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Mr. T really, really didn’t get along over the years. Despite partaking in bouts against each other at the first two WrestleMania events, the hatred between the two was very real, particularly on Piper’s behalf.
At Uniondale, New York, WrestleMania II had Piper against Mr. T in a boxing match. As is ever the case in the world of sports entertainment, the plan was to make the action look real but not actually be real. Unfortunately for Mr. T, though, he struggled to make it look anything less than phony, with his punches widely missing Piper completely.
Obviously if Piper went down from these wayward swings, he’d look a fool, and so finally frustration got the better of Roddy, with him throwing a chair at ringside before heading back in to slam T and lose via DQ.
8. Bart Gunn Gets KO’d
The ill-judged Brawl for All contest of 1998 was an absolute bust for a whole host of reasons.
Designed largely as a way to showcase “Dr. Death” Steve Williams’ toughness, the legit shoot competition saw several superstars get injured, and the initial plan to use this as a tool to push Williams went south when Dr. Death was knocked out by eventual winner Bart Gunn.
Looking to capitalise on Gunn’s surprise victory, the WWF booked him to face hammer-handed prize-fighter Butterbean at WrestleMania XV in a legit boxing match.
7. Triple H Gets Burned
What would a WrestleMania be without some ridiculous, over-the-top, elaborate, and often frankly stupid entrance from Triple H.
With The Game facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXIX, Hunter attempted to make an intimidating entrance that was largely built around dry ice being pumped out into the air. Sadly for The Cerebral Assassin, the dry ice would spray onto his chest and stomach, giving him second-degree burns!
Unphased, Triple H would suck it up and partake in the match as planned, even managing to surprisingly get the win over Lesnar.
What need Hunter had to defeat Lesnar – who had been built up as a legit brute upon his return to the WWE – is still questionable, but Triple H pointlessly and needlessly defeating the hottest stars on the roster was nothing new by that point in time. Just ask CM Punk.
6. Reaction To Roman
In terms of problematic, embarrassing WrestleMania moments of recent years, it doesn’t get more cringeworthy than seeing Roman Reigns standing victorious as the WWE Champion at the end of last year’s WrestleMania XXXII.
Having had months of being screwed over by The Authority, Reigns finally got his payback as the all-conquering hero by beating Triple H at the Showcase of the Immortals. The good guy overcoming the insurmountable odds and toppling the biggest bad guys should be a great feel-good way to end the biggest show of the year, right?
Well, yeah, it would be unless said good guy is Roman Reigns.
As such, the AT&T Stadium crowd of a reported 101,763 fans took great pleasure in raining down a shower of boos on Vince McMahon’s current golden boy. And still, the forcing of Roman down fans’ throats continues as strong as ever as we approach another WrestleMania.
5. Boos, Boos And More Boos
Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg has been a huge deal recently, and the pair are now on a collision course for one more battle at this year’s WrestleMania XXXIII. Back in 2004, however, that wasn’t particularly the case.
With each having interfered in the other’s match at that year’s Royal Rumble, the stage was set for the hotly-anticipated first ever clash between these two behemoths at WrestleMania XX. That much-hyped match, though, was soon to become infamous for the hostile environment that surrounded it.
In the build up to the match, it was widely known that Goldberg was finishing up with the company after ‘Mania. For Lesnar, on the eve of the show, news broke that he too was leaving in order to attempt a career in the NFL.
4. The Undertaker Nearly Becomes An Actual Dead Man
The back-to-back WrestleMania bouts between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are the stuff of legend, often rightly seen as two of the very best wrestling matches of all time by fans. But still, there’s one particular moment in the pair’s first ‘Mania battle that had everyone nervously watching and fearing the worst.
Yes, I’m talking about that moment at WrestleMania XXV.
With Michaels outside the ring, The Phenom ran the ropes and took to the skies in a fashion that we’ve seen many times over the decades. Unfortunately for ‘Taker, though, his landing was rough to say the least.
The plan was for Sim Snuka, posing as a cameraman, to catch Undertaker and break the fall of his Suicide Dive. Worryingly, Snuka didn’t catch The Deadman correctly, meaning ‘Taker was dropped squarely on his head.
3. The Rattlesnake Joins McMahon… But Texas Doesn’t Care
Really, what were Vince McMahon and the WWF decision makers thinking?!
You could make an argument for the decision to turn Steve Austin heel back in 2001, especially as Austin himself wanted to change up his character, but to attempt the heel turn in Austin’s home state of Texas during the main event of WrestleMania XVII in front of 67,925 rabid Stone Cold fans? Quite frankly, that’s a boneheaded, stupid decision that never should’ve even been suggested.
Having Austin join forces with longtime hated rival Vinny Mac should’ve been a huge deal that got major boos and instantly solidified the Rattlesnake as a hated superstar. Unfortunately, despite Austin’s relentless chair shots to The Rock, Texas was still only interested in cheering for their hero, even as he shook hands with Vince and chugged a beer with him.
2. Chris Benoit’s World Title Win
WrestleMania XX was held in the highest of high esteem at one point in time, and that was largely down to the phenomenal main event match in which Chris Benoit overcame Triple H and Shawn Michaels to win his first WWE World Championship.
Sadly, as is the case with so many of Benoit’s exceptional matches over the years, the ‘Mania XX bout has been tainted and is rightly ignored by the WWE.
In the history of WrestleMania, this triple threat match still is one of the greatest matches that the PPV has seen during its three-decade-plus lifespan.
For the WWE, it’s a problem in the sense that they can’t make any sort of reference to the main event of one of their biggest ever PPVs. And on a grander scale, it’s a match that can never be viewed with the same reverence and fanfare that it rightly garnered at the time.
1. Brock’s Botch
For anybody who’s ever seen WrestleMania XIX, you’ll never forget the sight of Brock Lesnar nearly breaking his neck in the main event of the show.
At that point in time, we’d all seen the video that was doing the online rounds – the one showing the hulking frame of Lesnar performing a pitch perfect Shooting Star Press. Still, when it came to his time on the main roster, Brock’s business was all about F5 after F5 after F5.
Then came Wrestlemania XIX.
So often over the years, superstars have pulled out special moments and moves at the Showcase of the Immortals, and so proved the case for Lesnar in his bout against Kurt Angle.
With the Olympic Hero down and out, Brock took to the top rope, shot off for a Shooting Star Press, only to fall short, land horribly straight on the top of his head, having us all thinking that he’d broken his neck or worse.