Wrestling Opinion: My History Of WrestleMania

Image Source: Wikipedia

Written By: Mark Armstrong

As we edge close to WrestleMania 31, you will see a lot of stories discussing the history of WrestleMania. This is one of those articles, but with a difference: this charts the history of WM via my own personal experiences of each Mania. Call it a life story of WrestleMania; hopefully it will be a fun journey!

Image Source: Dirtsheets.com

I was born in 1988, meaning that I wasn’t around for the first four WrestleManias. I would obviously learn in future how important they were, especially the first one. Had WM 1 not succeeded in 1985, the WWF would not have continued to exist, and who knows what professional wrestling would be like 30 years later? The company put so much of its financial muscle behind the event that it simply had to work. Fortunately (and obviously), it did, with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T’s win over Rowdy Roddy Piper & Mr. Wonderful capping off a card that seems dull today, but was the biggest thing of all-time back then.

WrestleMania 1 Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

WM 2 in 1986 was held in three cities, each having four matches apiece, and with at least one major match in each location. The Battle Royal pitting WWF wrestlers against NFL American footballers was a novelty at the time, and the Piper-T feud continued via a boxing match. Hogan main evented in a Steel Cage win over King Kong Bundy, his first WWF title defence at Mania. This was a moderate success commercially, but it would be dwarfed the following year.

WrestleMania 2 Highlights Link

Image Source: ProWresBlog

WrestleMania III drew 93,173 to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987.They were drawn by the epic main event, arguably the biggest of all-time, which ended with Hulk Hogan shockingly bodyslamming and legdropping Andre The Giant to remain WWF Champ. In hindsight, the classic Intercontinental Title match between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat is more fondly remembered, but both ensure that even today, WM III is considered one of the biggest and best Manias of them all.

WrestleMania III Highlights Link

Image Source: CultureCrossFire.com

My earliest memory of at least being aware of WrestleMania was via WM IV. I wasn’t born when it happened in early 1988, but I remember getting the VHS (video for younger readers) of the show, which was on two tapes, and being stunned that the Hogan-Andre rematch only partly ended on tape one, and you had to watch the rest on tape two! Randy Savage won a tournament to become WWF Champion at a show which, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t match the incredible event held one year prior, but was still a big success nonetheless and turned the Macho Man into a legend.

WrestleMania IV Highlights Link

Image Source: Wrestling101.com

The first WrestleMania I actually remember watching, again via video, was WM V in 1989. (I was 5-years-old when I got the video; I can’t remember me as a 10-month-year old baby.) Main evented by Hogan regaining the World Title from Savage, the event had a lot of matches, many of which were filler, but the vast majority of which included some classic WWF names, which means that even today I enjoy watching this show for nostalgic purposes.

WrestleMania V Highlights Link

Image Source: PixGood.com

But not as much as I do with WrestleMania VI in 1990. The main event between Hogan and Ultimate Warrior was and remains the first match I think of from the Hulkamania era, as the two most popular names of the late 80s/early 90s went at it in a great old-school match. The rest of the card was again filler but in terms of the “golden era” roster of the WWF, this Mania and the previous one showcased those names perfectly.

WrestleMania VI Highlights Link

Image Source: Rankopedia

Mania VII in 1991 was the last one I got on video before I started watching the WWF on Sky TV, and my copy is signed by The British Bulldog, although I don’t know if it was purchased signed or if it was later autographed. (By the way, I never did get WM 2 or WM III on VHS for unknown reasons, although I do have the DVDs.) Without question, the highlight was the Career match between Savage and Warrior; I said before that Hogan-Warrior was my favourite match of this era, but Macho Man-Warrior is a close second. Even now, I have a smile on my face watching or even thinking about the whole presentation, from the match itself to the post-match reunion of Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Ooooh Yeahhh!

WrestleMania VII Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

WrestleMania VIII in 1992 was the first WM that I watched on TV as a kid just under 4-years-old, and it was on Sky Movies for some reason. By now, the older names were fading away, and the New Generation was bubbling as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker all won here (who knew that all three would perform at Mania 18 years later?). But the best part for me was the totally unexpected return of the Ultimate Warrior after the Hogan-Sid Justice match; in the pre-Internet days, such comebacks were not even slightly predictable, and this remains one of the most unexpected returns of all-time.

WrestleMania VIII Highlights Link

Image Source: Cheap-Heat.com

By WrestleMania IX in 1993, I had become a proper WWF fan (I attended my first WWF show the previous September in Sheffield), so I was well into the shows and into WrestleMania. Bret Hart was my hero, but he lost here; however, at the time I thought Hogan’s completely unexpected WWF Title win over Yokozuna at the end was incredible. In hindsight, I can see why fans did not take kindly to it, but as a kid it excited me greatly. I also have to mention the appearance of two Doinks, which I thought was hilarious at the time, and still find funny today.

WrestleMania IX Highlights Link

Actually, before I continue, WM IX was preceded by a music video which somehow made the UK charts and actually began Simon Cowell’s rise to music production prominence (does that make him worthy of the WWE Hall Of Fame as a celebrity wing inductee?). It was so cheesy yet so enjoyable for nostalgic purposes that I have put the link to the video below; if you’re a long-time fan, watch this and then tell me that it doesn’t in some way get you in the mood for this year’s WrestleMania.

WrestleMania Music Video

Oh, what the heck … If we’re putting that one in, then we have to include the equally cheesy Slam Jam from the year before. Enjoy before we return to the main article!

Slam Jam Music Video

Image Source: Wikipedia

WrestleMania X in 1994 had several memorable matches, including the Intercontinental Title Ladder match between Michaels and Razor Ramon, although I only appreciated how good it was when I was older. But my hero remained Bret and, although he lost to Owen Hart in a great opener, he went on to beat Yokozuna in the main event for the WWF Title. I was ecstatic; I was cheering the Hitman as if he was a local sports team, such was my liking for Bret back then. I saw Bret later that year in Birmingham on the Hart Attack Tour, and was chedded.

WrestleMania X Highlights Link

Image Source: Hoffco-Inc.com

By WrestleMania XI in 1995, the WWF was losing a little bit of its sheen. I was still watching every week, but I wasn’t quite as excited as I had been a few years earlier. WM XI didn’t help by having few matches for me to care about even then, and being main evented by someone (Lawrence Taylor) who UK residents had never heard of. It didn’t help from a personal standpoint that due to a faulty video recorder, I only ever saw this event on a dodgy tape until I got the DVD years later. By the way, although WM IX was shown live in the UK, that was a one-off at the time; here, WM XI has begun a trend of Mania being shown live in the UK (as were all PPVs since then, and some before then actually, but this began the trend for Manias).

WrestleMania XI Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

I have a confession to make about WrestleMania XII in 1996: being a 7-year-old kid with a short attention span, at the time I did not watch the Iron Man Match for the WWF Title. So, sorry to Shawn Michaels, but you had become Champ, formed DX, screwed Bret, retired and come back before I watched your crowning moment in its entirety. My hero Bret lost anyway, so missing it didn’t hurt me. I saw the rest of the show, although it didn’t last long with the main event taking up so much time.

WrestleMania XII Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

By coincidence or otherwise, my feelings with the WWF over the next year mirrored those of longtime fans much older and much more knowledgeable than me. I was only occasionally watching the TV shows in 1996 and 1997, partly because Bret was off TV. I had no idea that over in WCW, a revolution was happening via the nWo which was destroying the WWF for a long time. For that reason, I viewed WrestleMania XIII in 1997 as I did any other Mania, although even as an innocent 8-year-old, I had noticed that swear words and middle finger gestures had crept onto WWF shows. However, I didn’t realise how important the Bret Hart-Steve Austin match would be in launching an era which would make me a fan for life.

WrestleMania XIII Highlights Link

Image Source: Hoffco-Inc.com

Come WrestleMania XIV in 1998, the WWF had completely changed. It was now an edgy, racy, adult-orientated product. At one point, I questioned whether I wanted to keep watching (the day after In Your House: Badd Blood; beforehand Brian Pillman died, and on the show the scary-looking Kane debuted at the end of a very violent Hell In A Cell match between Taker and Shawn; hey, I was young and got frightened!), but I soon realised that I was actually loving the new WWF. Should I have been watching at the age of 9? Hey, it was the WWF that changed, not me. And WM XIV was a big milestone, as my new hero Stone Cold Steve Austin became WWF Champ for the first time. A few days later, I went to my first WWF show since 1994, Mayhem In Manchester, and beforehand I met Stone Cold amongst others, the first of many times that I have had the pleasure to meet my WWF/WWE heroes.

WrestleMania XIV Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

Over the next 12 months, the WWF was the best it had ever been; cool, entertaining, controversial, funny – it was everything that you wanted from a wrestling show. WrestleMania XV should have marked the peak of the Attitude Era, but even when I was 10, I thought this show was a bit disappointing. I think that was down to a then-inexperienced Michael Cole commentating on most of the show, and my video recording of the event having “weird audio” during the Taker-Big Boss Man match (the next day, a friend of mine excitedly told me “Big Boss Man’s dead!” due to the post-match capers on this card). I still loved Stone Cold vs. The Rock, though, and though I felt slightly underwhelmed, I still enjoyed Mania XV. As with WM XIV, I went to a WWF show in Birmingham a few days later (the same date as MIM actually, April 4) and loved seeing the stars of the Attitude Era do their thing at their peak. Also, due to Easter holidays in school, this was the first Mania that I watched as it was happening live, although the 2am start time meant I was flagging after an hour and went to bed watching the rest of the show the next day. Incidentally, this was the last Mania to last 3 hours; each WM since has lasted more than three hours, four hours or longer.

WrestleMania XV Highlights Link

Image Source: Hoffco-Inc.com

The next year of the WWF was equally as fun, although I felt it was a notch below the 1998-9 period. WM 2000 was weakened by Austin and Undertaker being injured, but there were a lot of new, exciting faces which were changing the WWF to ensure that the matches would become more entertaining. I was 11 and starting to understand more about how wrestling really worked, but the fan in me was stunned that The Rock didn’t become WWF Champion because of Vince McMahon turning on him in favour of Triple H. I loved the Triangle Ladder Match, but the rest was unmemorable in hindsight. This WM was significant because one of my cousins actually attended it, apparently as a one-off, but it soon became a trend. I was very young, but the seed was planted to one day attend a Mania myself … although I never, ever envisioned that it would happen.

WrestleMania 2000 Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

If WM 2000 was slightly disappointing, WM X-Seven in 2001 certainly was not. I couldn’t believe that Austin aligned with Vince after his WWF Title win over The Rock, a phenomenal match and probably my favourite bout of all-time. As a kid in school, though, I had to fast-forward through the event before a school-day, so all the greatness was shown to me in the show-closing highlight reel. Once I watched it in full, though, I appreciated that this had been a truly special card: from the Street Fight to TLC II to the Gimmick Battle Royal to Taker-HHH to Austin-Rock. I also have to mention My Way by Limp Bizkit, a great song which helped make the event presentation awesome. There’s a full review of this event on this website tomorrow, but suffice it to say, this is my favourite WrestleMania to watch ever, but not my favourite Mania ever; that comes later, and for good reason.

WrestleMania X-Seven Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

WM X8 in 2002 marked the end of a crazy year which saw the WWF buy WCW and most of the top names from there and ECW eventually come to the WWF. This gave Mania X8 the feel of a WWF vs. WCW show, embodied by the classic Rock-Hogan bout. I had only seen Hulk in the tail-end of his prime when I started watching, but this encounter began my true appreciation for the almighty Hulkster. Again, the school-kid in me had to skip through it before anyone at school told me the results (seriously), so I only saw the final moments of Rock-Hogan before watching it back. Still, it was a great match to watch as a fan, and the unquestionable highlight of this particular card. A few weeks later, I attended my first WWF show since Rebellion 1999 in Birmingham, which was actually one of the very last WWF shows since the company was renamed WWE just days later. I have attended at least one show, sometimes several, in nearly every year since, but of note for 2002, I attended Rebellion later that year and happened to meet two wrestlers afterwards, one of whom seemed a let-down at the time. After all, it was just some unknown kid called John Cena. How ironic.

WrestleMania X8 Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

After skimming through the highlights of the most recent Manias, I had vowed with WrestleMania XIX to wait until after school, attempting to completely avoid people who could spoil it for me during the day, and watching the card in full when I returned home not knowing the results. I succeeded, and it was worth it because WM XIX in 2003 was amazing! It was surreal seeing HBK at Mania again, and it’s strange that even though this marked his return to the big stage, it was here where he really began to build his legacy as Mr. WrestleMania. I was disappointed by Booker T losing to Triple H, but the Hogan-Vince Street Fight erased memories of that and blew me away, especially when Rowdy Roddy Piper made a surprise appearance. Afterwards, a graphic came on for Austin-Rock 3, and knowing that Kurt Angle-Brock Lesnar was still to come, I thought “this is the greatest show ever!” It was certainly up there, and should be more fondly remembered. Nobody at the time realised that Stone Cold had just retired, although some did suspect it, and the lasting memory of the WWE Title match was Lesnar’s blown Shooting Star Press. Still, a phenomenal WrestleMania, the first after the Brand Extension.

WrestleMania XIX Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

For WrestleMania XX in 2004, the hype was brilliant, although the card was a bit underwhelming and I kind of thought that a planned match had been changed because it felt like something was missing, even though it was the longest WM ever (over 4 1/2 hours). It was still entertaining, although its legacy was forever harmed by the 2007 Benoit Tragedy, making Chris Benoit’s World Title win here uncomfortable to watch ever since. This Mania was significant because my brother attended, and while I was happy for him, I was so jealous! I was 15 then, so I had school commitments, but now more than ever, I so wanted to attend a WrestleMania, but it would never happen … would it?

WrestleMania XX Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

The next year in WWE was the poorest quality-wise since I became a fan; few things were exciting, and many big names left to be replaced by vastly inferior ones. So, I was not very excited when WM 21 rolled around in spring 2005, even though the card looked promising, big storylines were culminating, and three legends (Hogan, Piper and Austin) were returning. But on the day I suddenly got super-excited, and when it was live I was buzzing! I had to go to bed after Money In The Bank due to Sixth Form, but could hear Hulk Hogan returning as I was trying to sleep, and the next day when I learned that a lesson was cancelled, I thought “Come on, it’s WrestleMania!” and went home early to see the likes of the Michaels-Angle classic (a match I had wanted to see for years) and Stone Cold on Piper’s Pit. Cena and Batista became Champs at the end, and although I was thinking “Batista?” at the time, the two new titleholders went above expectations and, via this show, kicked off a new, exciting era in WWE.

WrestleMania 21 Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

I was more excited for WrestleMania 22 in 2006, but Sixth Form again meant only seeing the first chunk live and watching the rest the next day. I loved it at the time, especially the Hardcore match between the red-hot Edge and Mick Foley. I felt like something or someone was missing by the end, so my view of the show was tainted slightly, but in hindsight WM 22 stands up as a great representation of this period in WWE history, and the night that John Cena truly became the face of WWE, despite the growing resentment that was unprecedented at the time.

WrestleMania 22 Highlights Link

Image Source: SLTD Wrestling.com

WrestleMania 23 in 2007 was one of those were I thought, the hype was “alright”, the show was “alright”, but breaking it down, it was actually pretty good. The top four matches all delivered, and the huge crowd made this Mania feel huge; each WM since has been in a massive stadium. Of note, as I was on a break between University terms, this was the first WrestleMania where I watched the entire show live as it was happening. But just days before, it was revealed that WM XXIV would be in Orlando, Florida. It seemed unlikely, but as time went on, it became a reality: the travel package was booked later that year, and I would finally be going to WrestleMania!

WrestleMania 23 Highlights Link

Image Source: PixGood.com

So, WrestleMania XXIV in 2008, then. My expectations as an attendee for the first time were high, and the experience lived up to them! From the hotel where you knew something special was happening to the Hall Of Fame to (the then-downsized) Axxess to the event itself, plus the Orlando location allowing for tourist visits like Disneyland and Universal Studios, the entire thing couldn’t have been any better and fulfilled a lifelong dream. Plus, I was on camera throughout, on the third row wearing a Liverpool FC hat and shirt, and taking in the unforgettable matches like Ric Flair’s last WWE match against Shawn Michaels, Floyd Mayweather fighting Big Show and The Undertaker going 16-0 against Edge. Flair’s overly long HOF speech meant leaving that show early, but then being stranded, so leaving Mania was a worry but everything went well, although the HOF incident meant relinquishing tickets to a Raw that in hindsight was incredible for Flair’s farewell ceremony. These issues aside, WrestleMania XXIV was phenomenal to attend but, even if I hadn’t gone, I would still rank this show amongst the best Manias ever. Sometimes, something you really look forward to does not live up to the hype; WrestleMania did, via WM XXIV.

WrestleMania XXIV Highlights Link

Image Source: PixShark.com

In 2009, it felt odd watching WrestleMania 25 now that I had actually been to a Mania. Even so, after about an hour, this event felt like it was a bit of a let-down, a view shared by most. Mind you, it did provide maybe the greatest WM match of all-time between Undertaker and Michaels. I remember goiong “Ohhhh!” when it looked like Taker had broken his neck, but fortunately he got up and continued an unbelievable match. Overall, though, not a great Mania. Mind you, I had read online that John Cena had challenged The Rock to return and face him at WM XXVI. This coupled with rumours of Shawn Michaels’ impending retirement meant I wanted to go to WM again, as the main gift for my 21st birthday in May 2009, and so it was booked!

WrestleMania 25 Highlights Link

Image Source: Wikipedia

My personal Road To WM XXVI in 2010 had bumps since the flights to USA were cancelled shortly beforehand, causing total distress. More chaos over there meant that it was a relief to be in the University Of Phoenix Stadium, although the experience besides these mishaps was very enjoyable and pleasant. Mania itself was cool, largely because Bret Hart had finally returned, and although his win over Vince is looked down on now, I just appreciated seeing Bret back, It was a loaded card which perhaps didn’t quite meet expectations, but it was still much better than WM 25, topped off by the best match I’ve ever seen live, Streak vs. Career as Undertaker retired HBK. No, Cena didn’t face Rock, but Rock was never coming back to WWE, especially to face Cena … right?

WrestleMania XXVI Highlights Link

Image Source: GalleryHip.com

Having graduated from University by now, I was at a point in my life where I was looking for work when WrestleMania XXVII came about in 2011. WWE seemed weaker than it had been in years as the Road To WM began … then The Rock returned and things changed. The build-up was great, but the show itself was rather flawed. Still, I remember sitting up later than I should have considering I had an early job’s event to attend the next day so that I could see Taker go 19-0 against HHH in a brilliant No Holds Barred match. Afterwards, though, it was clear that the focus had changed so that this WM would actually be used to set up WrestleMania XXVIII, main evented by John Cena vs. The Rock. What about that, eh?

WrestleMania XXVII Highlights Link

Image Source: WrestleZone

The one-year road to Cena-Rock made WM XXVIII in 2012 feel like one of the biggest ever, plus Taker-HHH in Hell In A Cell refereed by HBK and other promising matches increased my anticipation. It lived up to the hype, I thought, as the Cell match was incredible, and Cena-Rock was the entertainment spectacle that everyone hoped it would be. Rock beat Cena to my surprise, but nobody was surprised that Taker won, because of course he was never going to lose at WrestleMania. By now, I was in regular employment, but before then tickets went on sale for the 28th WM. I nearly attended this Mania but, due to concerns about the Miami area, it was decided not to go (although I still really wanted to go!). When the New York/New Jersey location was confirmed for Mania the following year, though, it was on!

WrestleMania XXVIII Highlights Link

Image Source: Behance.net

Many look back on WrestleMania XXIX in 2013 with disappointment. Having attended it live, my third Mania, I certainly didn’t think it was that bad, although the fact that the top matches had already occured fairly recently made it a little underwhelming. But it was still a great show, with a lot of major star power, and the end of a great WM experience in NY/NJ, which included my first ever event at Madison Square Garden for the most star-studded Hall Of Fame ceremony to date. Oh, and I got to see Cena-Rock (2)! Thanks to WrestleMania, I had been to Florida, Las Vegas (on the way to Phoenix) and New York. Where next? I hope to attend WM 32 in Dallas, but more on that later.

WrestleMania XXIX Highlights Link

Image Source: WWE

WrestleMania XXX in 2014 felt big beforehand but as if something was missing. If it was, the card provided it: blowing everyone away, it was one of the most historic WrestleManias ever. I was shaking with excitement as Hogan, Austin and Rock convened in the ring, and was very happy for Daniel Bryan when he became WWE World Heavyweight Champion. But when I think of Mania XXX, my immediate thought is of the “1-2-3” when Brock Lesnar pinned The Undertaker to shockingly end The Streak. I genuinely couldn’t believe it; no doubt everywhere around the world, rooms went silent in shock, none more than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (or Silverdome to quote Hogan) in New Orleans. 21-1 was an image nobody thought they would see, and nobody will ever forget seeing.

WrestleMania XXX Highlights Link

Image Source: SportsKeeda.com

Which brings us to WrestleMania 31 this Sunday, March 29 2015, from the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The hype has been disappointing, the card itself feels a little strange, and the main evented could be the most negatively-received in WM history. But as this article shows, everyone will still get excited, and everyone will be watching.

To me, WrestleMania has been a constant, something up there with Christmas and birthdays, and despite the lacklustre build-up for this year’s event, I will definitely be watching on Sunday to see Sting finally wrestle in WWE, to see Undertaker return, to see what promises to be an epic Ladder match, to see if Rusev remains undefeated, to see if Seth Rollins cashes in MITB, to see who will provide that timeless WrestleMania moment, and to see just what will happen in the ring and in the crowd when Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar clash for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Image Source: ProWrestling.com

When WrestleMania first began, I … well, I was years off even being in the womb in 1985, but I have watched WM from being a little kid to a more educated pupil in school to a more knowledgeable student in University to a more mature employee in employment to the freelance writer of WWE-related material that I am today. The history of WrestleMania has been an incredible journey, and it mirrors the journey of life for fans such as myself who have watched wrestling almost since birth. I personally hope that I will get to experience WrestleMania one more time, hopefully at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas on April 3, 2016.

My predictions for WM 31 come later this week, but for now here’s something to get you ready for WrestleMania 31. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it (I really did, believe me), and I hope you enjoy WrestleMania 31!

WrestleMania 31 Promo