The WrestleMania main events of the 1980s laid the groundwork for the tremendous sports-entertainment extravaganza that fans from countries around the world will flock to on April 7. Superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Andre the Giant were among the most influential wrestlers of the period, and they dominated the main event scene in the later portion of the decade.
WrestleManias I-V set the stage not only for each other, but also for every one that followed.
The main events went a long way in defining those shows, and, like any wrestling match, some were better than others. Which main event from the 1980s was the best? Which failed to live up to the quality of the others? Where did the historically significant WrestleMania III clash between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant wind up?
Find out inside.
These are the WrestleMania main events of the 1980s, ranked from worst to best.
For the purpose of this article, "main event" is defined as the show-closing match. This disqualifies the huge battle royal and the boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr. T at WrestleMania 2.
WrestleMania 2 was broadcast from three separate locations across the United States (Uniondale, NY; Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA) and was the World Wrestling Federation's attempt to make the sequel to the highly successful original bigger and better. Touting three marquee matches and a boatload of celebrity involvement, there was reason to be excited about Vince McMahon's latest offering.
The show was to be headlined by the sport's biggest attraction, Hulk Hogan, as he defended his World Wrestling Federation Championship against the massive No. 1 contender from Atlantic City, New Jersey, King Kong Bundy. The match would take place inside a steel cage.
Leading into the match, Bundy had injured the champion's ribs on a notable episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, leading to doubt that Hogan would be at 100 percent by the time the bell sounded to start the main event.
Hogan entered the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena with his ribs noticeably taped while his monster-like opposition watched from inside the squared circle, believing it was his time to end both Hogan's title reign and Hulkamania for good. Once inside the cage, Hogan withstood a tremendous beating and Bundy's finishing move, the Avalanche splash. But, in typical Hogan fashion, the champ "hulked up," made his superhero comeback and vanquished his larger opponent to send the fans home happy.
The match was a perfect example of the "Hogan formula" and allowed the most visible star in the industry to star in the main event of the World Wrestling Federation's premier production. Both Hogan and Bundy worked hard, but the match never really got past "basic big-man match" status and, as a result, it was clearly the lesser of the first five WrestleMania main events.
A display for Hogan to do what he does and little more than that.
The original WrestleMania was a major production that fused the world of professional wrestling with mainstream entertainment. It was the next step in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation gaining the attention of the outside world.
The main event of the inaugural event would be a huge tag team main event, pitting World Wrestling Federation Champion Hulk Hogan and celebrity partner Mr. T against the villainous duo of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful." To add to the star power, the promotion reached out to Liberace, former Yankees manager Billy Martin, the Radio City Rockettes and the legendary Muhammad Ali to be a part of their production.
In a star-studded tag match, with the world watching the event, Hogan and Mr. T would defeat Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in a match filled with interference from Ali, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka and "Cowboy" Bob Orton.
The WrestleMania main event was absolutely essential to the success of the event as a whole. Hogan was the All-American good guy the audience wanted to pay to see beat up the arrogant, loud-mouth heel Piper while Mr. T provided the celebrity involvement that hooked non-wrestling fans. Orndorff had a history with Hogan as well, and his place in the main event more than made sense.
However, all of the glitz and glamour and over-booking masked what was, at best, an average to below-average tag team match. The crowd popped for every major spot in the match and seemed to enjoy itself greatly, but that does not make up for the fact that the quality of the match does not quite live up to some of the all-time great matches fans have enjoyed at WrestleMania events that followed.
In perhaps the most historically significant main event in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment, Hulk Hogan defended his then-World Wrestling Federation Championship against former friend-turned-heated rival Andre the Giant in the main event of the first truly great WrestleMania event.
The third WrestleMania emanated from the Pontiac Silverdome in front of a sold-out crowd of 93,173 fans, all waiting with great anticipation to see the biggest main event of their generation.
By the time March 29, 1987 rolled around, Hogan had been the heavyweight champion for over three years and all of the attention that had been heaped on him during that period had finally gotten to the usually good-spirited Andre, who severed his friendship with Hulk and announced his intentions to challenge Hogan for the top prize in the sport at WrestleMania.
The stage was set, and for the first time in his reign, there were questions about whether or not Hogan would be able to retain his title.
Hogan and Andre would wage war in a match that was far from the technical wrestling clinic that Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage had put on moments earlier. Instead, it was a spectacle, a titanic battle that pitted the two biggest stars in the company against one another with the biggest prize in the sport on the line.
It was the type of marquee match that WrestleMania has been built on and one that resulted in the event's greatest success to that point. The unstoppable force that was Hulk Hogan overcame the challenge of the immovable object and retained his title in one of the biggest matches of any kind in professional wrestling history.
The match itself was very simple, with Andre dominating until the timely Hogan comeback. Unlike the WrestleMania 2 match between Hulk and Bundy, however, the Andre match featured a lively crowd, a tremendous atmosphere, star power and two pros who could captivate an audience by doing very little.
The bodyslam late in the match is a defining moment of WrestleMania and elicited one of the loudest ovations ever.
In February of 1988, Hulk Hogan's four-year heavyweight title reign came to an end when Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase and Earl Hebner conspired to screw him over in an infamous episode of The Main Event. President Jack Tunney ruled the sale of the title by Andre to DiBiase to be against the rules of the World Wrestling Federation and proceeded to vacate the championship. He announced a tournament to be held at WrestleMania IV, with the winner becoming the new champion.
Sixteen of the top Superstars battled throughout the evening of March 27, 1988 to make their dreams of becoming World Wrestling Federation Champion come true. By the time the main event rolled around, however, there remained two men: Ted DiBiase, the man who orchestrated Hogan's title loss, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, the ultra-talented former Intercontinental Champion who had recently turned babyface.
With Andre and Virgil in his corner, the odds seemed stacked in DiBiase's favor. It appeared as though, for the first time in the event's history, a heel would leave the main event of Wrestlemania with his arm raised in victory.
The constant attempts at interference kept Savage off-guard through the early portion of the match. To thwart said attempts, he sent valet Miss Elizabeth back to the locker room. When she re-emerged, she had with her Hulk Hogan, whose history with the then-villains in the match was well-documented.
The well-rested DiBiase, the recipient of a bye to the finals due to tournament action earlier in the night, maintained control of the match for the most part. The ever-resilient Savage fought back and stayed in the match just long enough for Hogan to enter the ring late in the bout, strike DiBiase with a chair and allow Randy to capture his first heavyweight championship.
The match, in many ways, was the true beginning of the Mega Powers duo that would dominate the main event scene of the World Wrestling Federation and whose eventual breakup would set the stage for the best WrestleMania main event of the 1980s.
For the second consecutive year, World Wrestling Federation rolled into Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey for WrestleMania. In the fifth incarnation of the annual show, Hulk Hogan challenged former friend and tag partner Randy Savage for the heavyweight championship.
The match was the culmination of a year-long story that saw Hogan and Savage begin as partners until Randy's jealousy toward Hogan eventually became the one thing capable of splitting up the Mega Powers team. When Hogan began paying a little too much attention to Miss Elizabeth, Savage (as he should) took exception to it, and on the February 3 edition of The Main Event, The Mega Powers exploded when Savage attacked Hogan in the trainer's room.
The Hogan-Savage main event at WrestleMania was the first really great match to close out the "Showcase of the Immortals."
For the first time in two years, Savage reverted to his villainous ways in his match with Hogan. He took shortcuts when necessary. He even verbally abused Miss Elizabeth, who, as she had been for the last year, was caught in the middle of the clash.
As was the case with most of the early WrestleMania main events, Hogan would make the comeback, drop the leg and celebrate another huge victory.
Many have argued in the years that followed that Savage should have remained champion by nefarious means, setting up an even bigger main event the next year. Others are happy with the way things played out. Whatever the case may be, Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage was the best WrestleMania main event of the 1980s and no other match can take that away from it.