Much derision has been uttered about John Cena and The Rock’s WrestleMania XXIX rematch, especially as it flies in the face of the “Once in a Lifetime” tagline from last year. But as WWE aficionados will tell you, this isn’t the first major rematch in WrestleMania history.
Listed are ten cases of WrestleMania rematches throughout time, ranked from worst to best, with explanations as to how each rematch came to be. In all cases, except for one, the rematches took place within 2 years of the previous meeting.
10. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (WrestleMania IV)
Ten months later, Andre won Hogan’s title on a Friday night NBC special, thanks to Ted Dibiase orchestrating chicanery with the referees. Andre surrendered the championship to Dibiase, as per the agreement between the two. WWE President Jack Tunney invalidated the transaction, and held the championship up for a 14 man tournament at WrestleMania IV.
Hogan and Andre were awarded automatic byes into the second round, due to their status as the previous champions. They faced off, with the winner getting the winner of Dibiase and Don Muraco. The abbreviated match ended in a double disqualification after a chair got involved, but it was mission accomplished for Andre: Dibiase drew a bye to the finals.
9. Undertaker vs. Kane (WrestleMania XX)
This one’s cheating a bit, due to the gap between matches, but I needed a credible tenth match. At WrestleMania XIV in 1998, Undertaker had his first ever meeting with Kane, nearly six months after the demonic brother attacked The Dead Man at Badd Blood. Undertaker narrowly won the brawl, extending his perfect WrestleMania record to 7-0.
Through the next six years, the two men would demonstrate a complex relationship, both assaulting one another at random, and then aligning through their brotherly bonds. However, in November 2003, an increasingly-unhinged Kane aided Vince McMahon in burying Undertaker (in his biker phase) alive, and the Dead Man was seemingly gone for good.
Over the next several months, Kane was taunted by Undertaker’s classic gong sound, as well as caskets, an urn, and a ring that shook via supernatural powers. At WrestleMania, a restored Undertaker, once more led by Paul Bearer and druids, annihilated Kane, his first repeat WrestleMania victim. After the final Tombstone, the Phenom improved to 12-0.
8. Triple H vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania XXV)
One year earlier, Orton was in a tough predicament, having to defend the WWE Championship against Triple H and John Cena in a triple threat match. The Legend Killer managed to survive the challenge, striking Helmsley with a punt after he’d Pedigreed Cena. With both men prone, the champ covered Cena and scored the victory.
One year later, Orton won the Royal Rumble, last ousting Triple H. But The Game would become WWE Champion at Elimination Chamber, giving Orton a desirable target. These events came after Orton attacked Vince, Shane, and Stephanie McMahon in different incidents, including kissing the downed Stephanie with a handcuffed Hunter forced to watch.
Helmsley was justly livid, attacking Orton in a home invasion like something out of the Attitude Era. After weeks of attacks that included Orton’s henchmen Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, as well as Vince and Shane, Helmsley decisively beat Orton in a rather slow WrestleMania main event, striking with the sledgehammer, and winning via Pedigree.
7. Mr. T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper (WrestleMania II)
B.A. Baracus’ teaming with Hulk Hogan at the inaugural WrestleMania was a huge part of WWE’s hefty windfall and spoils of the 1980′s “Rock n Wrestling” era. After hosting Saturday Night Live together, and making other media rounds, Hogan and Mr. T defeated Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in a star-studded main event at Madison Square Garden.
One year later, Vince McMahon spread the second WrestleMania across three time zones, and needed a suitable main event for each. Hogan would face King Kong Bundy in Los Angeles for the WWE Title, Chicago would get both an NFL player-laden battle royal and a Tag Team Title match, while Piper and T would headline the Long Island portion.
Rather than have a wrestling match, The Hot Rod would be boxing the pop culture icon. Joan Rivers was guest ring announcer, while judges included Cab Calloway, G. Gordon Liddy, and Darryl Dawkins. T won via disqualification in a fight that was mostly a farce, but it was a heated one, filled with some legitimate punches between the two (who had real heat).
6. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (WrestleMania X)
At the ill-fated WrestleMania IX, WWE Champion Hart had his six month reign as WWE’s hero ended after Mr. Fuji tossed salt into his eyes, allowing the massive Yokozuna to capture the gold. In a moment indicative of Hart’s, and WWE’s, place in 1993, Yoko dropped the title minutes later to Hulk Hogan, who had merely returned for a cup of coffee in Stamford.
Hart was sidetracked from the chase via feuds with Jerry Lawler and freshly-turned brother Owen, but The Hitman managed to co-win the 1994 Royal Rumble with Lex Luger. In a unique decision, both men would get a shot at WrestleMania X in two different matches. Luger would get Yoko first, and to compensate, Bret had to wrestle earlier in the night vs. Owen.
Hart lost a scientific clinic to Owen in the opening match, while Luger was controversially disqualified against Yokozuna mid-show. Yoko had been rendered unconscious via Luger’s steel forearm, but got the upper hand on an injured Hart early. The mighty champion slipped off the ropes on a Banzai Drop attempt, and Hart pinned him while he lay stunned.
5. Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVIII)
Their battle at WrestleMania X7 was largely wiped from history in 2011, when Triple H challenged Undertaker’s streak. Presented as a fresh matchup, The Game planned to avenge Shawn Michaels’ retirement the year before. After brutalizing Undertaker into near oblivion, Hunter slipped up and fell victim to the Hell’s Gate submission, bringing Taker to 19-0.
In 2012, Undertaker issued repeated challenges to Triple H, wanting to avenge the beating he’d been given. Helmsley, now settled into his role as Chief Operating Officer, repeatedly refused until Undertaker finally goaded him by saying that Helmsley was never as good as Shawn Michaels. Triple H made it a Hell in a Cell match, and Michaels would be the ref.
Helmsley got the upper hand early, despite having a wound opened near his eyebrow. Michaels tried to stop the match when Undertaker was vulnerable, but The Dead Man came back with a fury. After bashing Helmsley with his own sledgehammer, Undertaker finished with a Tombstone. The Dead Man and Michaels helped Helmsley away to a standing ovation.
4. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XIX)
At WrestleManias XV and X7, the two cornerstones of the 1990s wrestling boom waged war for the WWE Championship, both times with Austin reigning supreme. As a matter of fact, other than eliminating Austin in the WWE vs. Alliance match at Survivor Series 2001, Rock had never pinned Stone Cold, while Austin slayed him twice under the brightest of lights.
In January 2003, Austin was named Superstar of the Decade by WWE, a selection that irked a Hollywood-tainted, self-indulgent People’s Champion. Rock lamented never beating Austin at WrestleMania, and challenged Stone Cold (freshly returned from an infamous eight month hiatus) to one more round on the grand stage, with nothing at stake but pride.
Austin ended up having the final match of his thirteen year career with Rock, who withstood Austin’s last ditch offense before dropping him with three Rock Bottoms. In the aftermath, Rock broke character to check on his real-life friend and peer, before leaving with tears in his eyes. Austin then made his exit, the camera tracking him to the stage and into retirement.
3. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (WrestleMania X7)
Tag team wrestling in WWE experienced its greatest resurgence since the days of the Harts, Rockers, Bulldogs and Demolition when the aforementioned six brought WWE audiences the slickest stuntwork in years. A series of ladder and table matches between them culminated at WrestleMania 2000, with Edge and Christian winning a triple ladder match.
Through the next year, the teams would battle off and on, including the first true “TLC” match at Summerslam 2000, with the Canadians reeking of awesomeness yet again, while all six set new standards for high-risk wrestling. By X7, the Dudleyz were champs, and each team had an ally: they had brother Spike, Edge and Christian had Rhyno, and the Hardyz still had Lita.
A TLC match was arranged for the three teams once more, and their accomplices all got involved. Edge speared Jeff off of the skyhook with the titles, while Rhyno knocked Bubba Ray and Matt off the ladder through a stack of four tables. D-Von was kept at bay in the end, as Rhyno aided Christian up the ladder, with Captain Charisma pulling down the straps.
2. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXVI)
In 2009, Michaels, building on his reputation as “Mr. WrestleMania”, tore down Houston with The Undertaker in an attempt to break the unbreakable streak. For thirty minutes, the two icons threw everything at each other, with Taker nearly wiping out on a dive to the floor. In the end, Taker caught Shawn on a moonsault and Tombstoned his way to 17-0.
Both men took months off, and went on different paths upon their August returns. But come Royal Rumble time, Shawn attempted to win with sole purpose of getting Taker (now World Heavyweight Champion) in a rematch. When Shawn lost, he went on a mission to get Undertaker anyway, and cost him the title at Elimination Chamber weeks later.
Undertaker finally acknowledged Shawn’s challenges by accepting on the condition that Michaels retire if he lost. The match was as dramatic as their 2009 battle, concluding with Michaels refusing to lay down despite the beating. Shawn mocked Taker and smacked him, leading to one giant Tombstone to end HBK’s in-ring career in heart-stopping fashion.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania X7)
In early 2001, Austin won his third Royal Rumble, while Rock defeated Kurt Angle to become champion at No Way Out. The two icons were on a collision course for WrestleMania once more, with no corporate blockade for Austin to break. Instead, it was a battle for pride, respect, and gold. Ominously, Austin reiterated in interviews that he “needed” to win.
The match was possibly each man’s greatest performance, exchanging Attitude Era-brawling with submission wrestling. Toward the climax, Vince McMahon made his way out for unknown reasons. After breaking up a Rock pinfall attempt, he and Austin worked together to dismantle Rock with a steel chair. Austin won, and thanked new friend Vince afterward.