10 Greatest Babyface WWE WrestleMania Matches Ahead of John Cena vs. Undertaker
The Road to WrestleMania 34 has been paved in with insults from John Cena to The Undertaker in hopes of convincing The Deadman to come out of seclusion and fight him at The Show of Shows. While the match has not been made official as of now, the expectation is that Cena and Undertaker will do battle in New Orleans on April 8.
Such a meeting will be the latest example of two immensely popular babyfaces waging war in the greatest spectacle of sports entertainment.
Since 1990, good guys have battled other good guys in high-profile bouts promoted by Vince McMahon in an attempt to split the audience and create genuine excitement and intrigue for that given year's marquee bout.
From Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior all the way to The Rock vs. John Cena, babyface matches have become a staple of WWE's most prestigious event over the last 28 years.
In preparation for the latest battle of the babyfaces, relive these 10 instances in which fan favorites competed against each other for pride, championships and spotlight.
10. WrestleMania VI: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan
As the calendar switched over from the 1980s to the new decade, it seemed ludicrous to think that another Superstar could supplant Hulk Hogan as the top star in McMahon's WWE.
Then came the Ultimate Warrior.
Flashy, energetic and with an in-ring style that was short and succinct, he was an exciting alternative to The Hulkster. His popularity and marketability were such that he could turn into the company's next franchise star.
With Hogan needing time off over the spring and summer of 1990 anyway, WrestleMania VI was tapped as the setting for the official torch-passing.
In a main event so much better than it had any right to be, Hogan and Warrior threw everything they had at one another as an electric crowd of 67,000 fans in Toronto's SkyDome watched on. Each man took turns controlling the bout, and by the closing moments, each was equally exhausted.
Hogan, the veteran of so many iconic WrestleMania bouts, appeared poised to prove once again that no one could halt Hulkamania as he summoned the energy of his fans. Except, he made an uncharacteristic error, missing his patented leg drop.
Warrior followed up with a big splash and pinned Hogan, becoming the first Superstar to ever hold both the WWE and Intercontinental Championship at the same time.
Hogan, the consummate hero, handed the title over to his foe and embraced him in a sign of respect that also doubled as recognition of the magical match they had just had.
9. WrestleMania 23: Batista vs. The Undertaker
WrestleMania 23 in Detroit featured not one but two heavyweight title bouts in which a babyface defended against another babyface. First up, SmackDown's Batista defended his World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker in a battle of blue brand titans.
Fueled by frustration over their position on the card, The Deadman and The Animal took to the ring hellbent on stealing the show.
Using their power-based arsenals, they pummeled each other in and out of the ring, including a big powerslam spot by Batista that threatened Undertaker's undefeated streak.
Batista would gain confidence throughout but would eventually let himself get caught, first in the Last Ride powerbomb and then in the Tombstone, which proved his undoing.
The Deadman picked up another monumental victory in his historic streak, and Batista proved even his harshest critics wrong in delivering a match that ranked as one of the better heavyweight slugfests (and underrated gems) in WrestleMania history.
8. WrestleMania VIII: Bret Hart vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
WrestleMania VIII may be remembered as the event of "what should have been," but what was still resonates with fans.
Early in the card, Bret Hart sought to regain the Intercontinental Championship that The Mountie had taken from him under nefarious circumstances back in January. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was riding a high after defeating the villainous police officer from north of the border at Royal Rumble and winning his first championship of any kind in WWE.
On that April night in Indianapolis, Hart would challenge Piper in a match between two of the most beloved stars in WWE history. Few could have imagined how intensely personal it would become.
Piper's frustration over not being able to put Hart away would become central to the story. His opponent and longtime friend bloodied, Piper would tease bashing him with a ring bell before he calmed down and trapped The Hitman in his vaunted sleeper.
Hart countered by climbing the ropes and pushing off, forcing Piper backward, his shoulders pinned to the mat.
The referee counted three and Hart was, yet again, a made man thanks to the unselfish actions of an established main eventer.
7. WrestleMania XII: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels epitomized the New Generation era of WWE.
Smaller than the squared circle gladiators that had preceded them, they brought a technique and athleticism to the ring that had many considering them the two finest professional wrestlers in the world by the time 1996's WrestleMania XII arrived.
The Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim would be the setting for the most grueling match in the long and illustrious history of The Showcase of the Immortals, as Michaels would challenge Hart for the WWE Championship in a 60-minute Iron Man match.
For one hour, the top two stars in McMahon's traveling circus would keep fans on the edges of their seats, leaving them guessing as to which man would be able to score the most victories over the other and establish himself the undisputed face of the promotion.
With no falls rendered in the given time limit, the match went to overtime, where a frustrated Hart fell prey to Sweet Chin Music and Michaels lived his boyhood dream of winning the WWE title.
It was a moment in time that established Michaels as a main event star and added to the Hitman's legacy of all-time great WrestleMania bouts.
6. WrestleMania XXVIII: The Rock vs. John Cena
In 2012, John Cena and The Rock battled in a match dubbed by the WWE marketing machine as "Once in a Lifetime." For the first time, the leader of the company's Ruthless Aggression and PG Eras would battle one of the most recognizable stars of the Attitude Era.
It was a dream match enhanced by Cena's comment about Rock's passion for wrestling after leaving for Hollywood, and fans ate it up.
The pomp and circumstance of a prize fight accompanied the match. There were musical performances. Incredible video packages featuring the talking heads of WWE. There were press conferences and iconic posters, all designed to publicize and market the biggest match to take the WrestleMania stage since Rock battled Hulk Hogan 10 years earlier.
The crowd in Miami Gardens, Florida, was solidly behind the hometown hero Rock as he combatted the younger Cena. Showing signs of ring rust, Rock found himself fighting from underneath, the grizzled veteran trying to prove he still belonged.
When Cena proved too arrogant for his own good, attempting Rock's trademark People's Elbow, The Great One pounced at the opportunity, dropped him with the Rock Bottom and won the match.
It was an epic homecoming for Rock and the perfect ending to wrestling's last great dream match.
5. WrestleMania 23: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
John Cena and Shawn Michaels headlined Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit, a replacement for the originally planned Cena vs. Triple H bout. As it turned out, the match fans were treated to was probably better than what they would have been gifted by McMahon's promotion.
Michaels seized the WrestleMania spotlight as he had so many times in the past and told the story of a grizzled veteran trying to prove the young champion could not hang with him on wrestling's grandest stage.
He outwrestled Cena for the majority of the bout and for the longest time appeared on his way to winning the WWE Championship in the main event of The Showcase of the Immortals for the first time in 11 years.
Cena would rob Michaels of reliving his dream, trapping him in an STF and forcing a submission.
Though a babyface by definition, Cena was despised by fans who took exception to his rapid ascent and the company's massive push. A chorus of boos met his victory. Still, the good guy vs. good guy match is a superb main event and one that feels as though it is often overlooked when counting down the best main events in WrestleMania history.
4. WrestleMania XXVI: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
One year after one of the best matches in wrestling history, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker sought to replicate the quality at WrestleMania XXVI. While that proved an uphill battle even for them, the match would be a masterclass in storytelling that led the WWE Universe on an emotional roller-coaster ride.
Michaels' career was at stake, a career that had become as integral to the allure of WrestleMania as his opponent's streak.
In an epic encounter that could not be touched by anything else on the card, the Superstars captivated an audience that was absolutely sure Michaels was losing but still bit on several near-falls and false finishes.
Late in the match, a defeated-yet-defiant Michaels taunted Undertaker, mocking him in an attempt to get a reluctant Deadman to finish the job.
He did, sending Michaels packing in grand fashion.
The embrace after the match was reflective of the respect the Superstars had for each other and helped put over the enormity of the match.
3. WrestleMania XXVIII: The Undertaker vs. Triple H
At WrestleMania XXVII, Triple H left The Undertaker broken and battered. Though The Deadman officially won his match with The Game, he was unable to leave Atlanta's Georgia Dome under his own power, instead stretchered out by medics.
One year later in Miami Gardens, The Deadman would return to prove he was not washed up and that Triple H had not ended his run. To do so, he would have to deal with the unforgiving steel structure that is Hell in a Cell and the unnerving presence of Shawn Michaels in the role of guest referee.
For 30 minutes, the iconic stars waged war in an intensely physical match that was as dramatic as it was violent. Michaels was as essential to the overall production as the Superstars themselves, torn between counting the shoulders of the man who retired him and those of his best friend.
That changed when he blasted Undertaker with Sweet Chin Music in one of the hottest spots of the entire show. Michaels dropped down and counted 1...2... but stopped shy of three as The Phenom shot his shoulder off the mat.
The Deadman eventually shrugged off final insults from Triple H and put the King of Kings away with the Tombstone, extending his WrestleMania undefeated streak to 20-0.
Dubbed "The End of an Era," all three stars walked to the back together before stopping at the top of the ramp and embracing in a salute to days gone by.
2. WrestleMania X-Seven: The Rock vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
There may not be a better representation of a babyface vs. babyface epic than The Rock vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin from WrestleMania X-Seven.
The two most prominent Superstars of the Attitude Era, they were beloved by millions of fans worldwide. Their popularity and crossover appeal were undeniable, and their mainstream recognition matched that of a Hulk Hogan. They were legitimate stars the likes of which professional wrestling was lucky enough to have one of, let alone two at the same time.
Rock had assumed the role of franchise star when Austin was injured and forced to undergo neck surgery in early 2000. When The Texas Rattlesnake returned, he naturally sought to regain the WWE Championship and his status as the top star in WWE.
With the late addition of a No Disqualification stipulation, the icons waged war in a match that not only brought the chaos and violence of Attitude Era main events but also played on the histories of the Superstars.
Rock broke out a Sharpshooter on a bleeding Austin, an ode to the Submission match Stone Cold lost to Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. Austin pulled the Million Dollar Dream out of mothballs, a nod to his debut as The Ringmaster years earlier, in an attempt to wear his opponent down.
Eventually, frustration set in as both Superstars proved unable to put the other away, even using their trademark finishers. The unthinkable would happen, as Mr. McMahon stomped toward the squared circle, handed Austin a steel chair and worked with his greatest rival to put Rock away and signify a change in the Austin character it never really recovered from.
"You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain," Harvey Dent explained to Rachel Dawes and Bruce Wayne in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, and this was no different.
The bout may not have ended up a babyface vs. babyface match, particularly considering Austin's turn at the very end of the bout, but it is difficult to find a match more representative of what a battle between two babyfaces should be.
1. WrestleMania XXV: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Arguably the greatest match in WrestleMania history occurred in 2009 when Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker squared off inside Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The match, still talked about today for the drama and the fact that so many Superstars have borrowed from it in the years since it took place, was the culmination of a weeks-long build in which Michaels antagonized The Deadman by playing mind games ahead of their contest.
By the time the bell rang and fans had witnessed the representation of light and dark via the unique entrances both men delivered, it was time for the two 40-something veterans to show the wrestling world that they could still go and, more importantly, steal the show on the grandest stage known to sports entertainment.
The counters, reversals, high-risk maneuvers and heart-stopping near-falls left fans on the edges of their seats. Undertaker took a leap of faith over the top rope and landed on his head in a spot that threatened the entire match. The consummate badass, he continued to fight but was left stunned when his first Tombstone piledriver failed to put Michaels away.
Ditto the Heartbreak Kid, whose Sweet Chin Music was unable to keep the greatest gunslinger in WWE history down for the count.
It was Michaels' miscalculation that proved his downfall. Climbing to the top rope, he launched himself off with a moonsault and into the waiting arms of Undertaker, who planted him with another Tombstone and increased his storied undefeated streak.