Ranking Top 7 WWE WrestleMania Midcard Matches That Outshined the Main Event

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Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVMarch 14, 2023

Ranking Top 7 WWE WrestleMania Midcard Matches That Outshined the Main Event

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    The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan was the true main event of WrestleMania 18.

    The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan was the true main event of WrestleMania 18.Credit: WWE.com

    As WWE’s biggest show of the year, WrestleMania should also in theory be the best, especially with the event serving as the culmination of months-long storylines and the star power that is brought in to fill out the card.

    Although that isn’t always the case, The Show of Shows has hosted countless classics since its inception in 1985 and has featured some of the greatest main events the company has produced.

    WrestleMania 3’s Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, while not a barn burner from a technical standpoint, was a milestone match for WWE. It was also on The Grandest Stage of Them All that the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin era got underway when he unseated Shawn Michaels to clinch his first WWE Championship to close out WrestleMania 14.

    Even at recent installments, WWE has largely nailed the main events, most notably when Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair battled for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in 2021 and Austin returned to the ring last year.

    For as many times as WWE has headlined WrestleMania with the best bout of the night, there have been several midcard matches that wound up outshining whatever went on last, with the following seven being the most prominent examples.

Honorable Mentions

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    The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 27)

    Ten years removed from their classic encounter at WrestleMania 17, these two Attitude Era icons renewed hostilities at WrestleMania 27 in what was a far superior match to The Miz vs. John Cena. Even with Undertaker’s storied streak intact at the time, the outcome was never in doubt, but Triple H came close on multiple occasions and ensured a sequel would transpire at the subsequent installment of ‘Mania.

    Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania 8)

    This was billed as a “double main event” alongside Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice, but the latter was the true headliner while Flair and Savage settled for the middle of the card. Despite that, they had the excellent outing you’d expect from them, culminating in Savage walking away with his second WWE Championship. Hogan vs. Justice offered nothing of value and had a disappointing disqualification finish.

    Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston (WrestleMania 35)

    On one of the longest cards in WrestleMania history, Bryan vs. Kingston managed to catch the crowd at its hottest. Not only was Kingston becoming WWE champion an all-time WrestleMania moment, but the match itself also was excellent and served as the perfect payoff to KofiMania. The first-ever women’s ‘Mania main event that evening was obviously historic, but it wasn’t the barn burner many hoped it would be.

7. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch (WrestleMania 32)

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    The entire road to WrestleMania 32 was built around Roman Reigns and whether he could regain the WWE Championship from around the waist of evil authority figure Triple H. The story played out exactly as expected, with The Big Dog winning and the match being disappointing

    In fact, a majority of the WrestleMania 32 card was fine, albeit unspectacular. The only match that will be remembered years from now is the Triple Threat to crown an inaugural WWE women’s champion.

    Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch had all arrived on the main roster less than a year earlier and already found themselves in a marquee ‘Mania match. They were gradually ushering in what would become known as the Women’s Evolution, and thus the Divas Championship being ditched in favor of this new title was long overdue and fitting for WrestleMania.

    It was an excellently wrestled match, aided by an unpredictable outcome. Flair emerging victorious was the least satisfying conclusion of the three, but it took nothing away from the contest itself and what it represented.

6. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (WrestleMania 10)

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    Yokozuna had the tall task of defending his WWE Championship at WrestleMania 10 against not one, but two opponents in separate matches. This was a result of Bret Hart and Lex Luger being deemed co-winners of the 1993 Royal Rumble match.

    Yokozuna having to pull double duty made for an interesting angle, but neither of his title defenses were all that great. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in the opener was outstanding, but the Intercontinental Championship ladder match was the bigger spectacle.

    Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon both had legitimate claims to the prestigious prize, and a ladder match was the only way to determine who the rightful champ actually was. The stipulation has since been done to death in WWE and other companies, but this was the first major one of its kind, and it set the standard for all that have followed.

    Their many high risks paid off wonderfully and made for a thrilling affair. Michaels leaping from the top of the ladder and onto Ramon down below is a sight that will forever be etched in the minds of fans.

    WrestleMania 10 marked the dawning of a new era in WWE, and these two were very much a part of that next generation.

5. Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania 7)

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    The Ultimate Warrior was never known for having mat classics during his short-lived WWE career. His two best matches occurred at WrestleMania one year apart.

    The first was the iconic clash of champions at WrestleMania 6, in which he beat Hulk Hogan for the WWE title while already intercontinental champion. That was obviously slotted as the main event, but his match against Randy Savage the following year didn’t receive the same treatment.

    Instead of a title, the careers of both men were on the line, adding to the stakes of an already star-studded attraction. Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s ex-squeeze, was seated ringside to watch everything unfold.

    This had a big-fight feel to it, with both legends exchanging finishers, dishing out everything in their arsenals and keeping the crowd engaged the entire time. Warrior winning was memorable enough, but Savage’s emotional post-match reunion with Elizabeth put this over the top.

    Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter for the WWE Championship in the main event didn’t stand a chance. They had a serviceable match, but the Hogan fatigue was real by this point and there was nothing exciting about him getting the belt back for a third time.

4. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (WrestleMania 2000)

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    WrestleMania 2000 will go down as one of the most oddly booked installments ever. The card was full of multi-person/gimmick bouts that didn’t pack a punch, including the mess of a match in the main event for the WWE Championship.

    The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley dragged on way longer than it needed to and was more focused on furthering the McMahon family drama than it was the WWE Championship.

    The first-ever triangle ladder match pitting Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz against each other made the show worthwhile. With the tag titles suspended high above the ring, the talented teams took turns attempting to outdo each other with spots that left the audience in awe.

    This was at a time when doing these sorts of stunts were not yet widely accepted in WWE, but these three teams went above and beyond to prove their worth and succeeded. It was quite the spectacle, to say the least.

    This laid the groundwork for the first official Tables, Ladders & Chairs match that summer, whereas the real main event at WrestleMania 2000 had no long-term effects or ramifications on anything whatsoever.

3. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania 13)

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    Despite winning the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, it wasn’t until “Stone Cold” Steve Austin targeted Bret Hart that fall that his career really started to take off.

    Their initial one-on-one meeting at Survivor Series was a gem, but Austin’s loss that evening hardly hindered his momentum.

    They resumed their rivalry in the Royal Rumble match and finally agreed to settle the score at WrestleMania 13. It featured a No Disqualification Submission stipulation and saw Ken Shamrock serve as special guest referee.

    There’s not much that can be said about this match other than that it’s a true masterpiece. Hart brought the best out of him like only he could, and Austin was made to look phenomenal in defeat, especially with the visual of him passing out with a crimson mask.

    It was unfortunate The Undertaker’s first WrestleMania main event had to be overshadowed in that way, but there was nothing special about his championship clash with Sycho Sid. The title change was notable, but everything else about it is best forgotten.

    Had Hart stuck around in WWE past 1997, this would have been the perfect match to run back in the main event of WrestleMania 15, this time with Austin going over and getting that ultimate endorsement.

2. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania 18)

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    The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan didn’t need anything up for grabs in order to feel larger than life. It simply sold itself.

    Hogan’s 2002 return to WWE coincided with Rock gradually winding down as a full-time performer to pursue acting, but their WrestleMania 18 match was still seen as a “passing of the torch” from Hogan to Rock. The Great One was a made man by this point, but that’s part of what made their outing so appealing.

    The energy in the audience that night was on another level because they knew they were witnessing two generational icons colliding. It was similar to other matches mentioned on this list in that all they needed were some smoke and mirrors to make this a blast.

    As if that wasn’t enough, the reaction to Hogan’s face turn following Rock’s victory was thunderous. The main event of Triple H vs. Chris Jericho was doomed before the bell even rang, and it didn’t help that their storyline never felt worthy of that prestigious spot to begin with.

    Hogan vs. Rock was a WrestleMania match in its purest form and checked every box to feel like a main event in the midcard.

1. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania 25)

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    It’s difficult to define The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels as a WrestleMania “midcard” match because it was the most anticipated encounter heading into WrestleMania 25, but it meets the very limited criteria of having not headlined the event and therefore qualifies as the undisputed top-ranked choice.

    WWE’s decision to put the WWE Championship match between Triple H and Randy Orton in the main event instead was logical on paper considering The Viper was the Royal Rumble winner that year and they had a hot rivalry going.

    Unfortunately, the bout fell flat. Although that likely would have happened regardless, ‘Taker vs. Michaels being as brilliant as it was burned out the crowd and played a factor in the remainder of the show not measuring up.

    It can be watched on repeat and never gets old. The constant counters, the exceptional storytelling, the fantastic facial expressions, and the suspenseful near-falls made this the blueprint for what every match should aspire to be.

    The main event was going to underwhelm no matter what if it had to follow that tremendous piece of business. WWE was wise to have them headline ‘Mania a year later and has been better about putting the proper matches in the main event since then to avoid this issue from ever happening again.

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.

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