5 Greatest 1990s WWE WrestleMania Main Events

WrestleMania XII Shawn Michaels

WrestleMania was created 40 years ago by Vince McMahon and was the event which took American wrestling to new heights and made it a pop culture phenomenon.

Four decades after its creation, WrestleMania is still going strong and is seen as the highlight of the annual wrestling calendar.

The 1990s saw WrestleMania go through many changes. The decade started strong with what was supposed to be a passing of the torch moment between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. The popularity of the WWE brand was severely damaged by the steroid and sex scandals of the early 1990s, which saw a new breed of smaller, more technical wrestlers such as Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and Shawn Michaels take centre stage.

The 1990s ended with the company at its peak in terms of popularity as it rode the crest of a wave during the Attitude Era, with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the figurehead.

This feature looks back at the five greatest WrestleMania main event matches of the era.

#5 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XII (March 31, 1996)

WrestleMania XII Hart vs Michaels

The Iron Man match which headlined WrestleMania XII has long had mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Although, it is a technically proficient match-up and told a logical story, the fact that the bout hosted not a single fall until the third minute of overtime, meant that it bored many of the California fans rigid.

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels spent an hour exchanging rest holds and very little else as the bout limped towards a conclusion. It did pick up down the stretch as the time limit came close to expiring. However, the match ended with Michaels locked in Hart’s patented Sharpshooter.

Despite earning a draw and retaining his title fair and square, Hart was forced to compete in an unscheduled overtime which Michaels won after nailing the champion with two Superkicks.

Rather than being portrayed as an all-conquering hero, ‘The Showstopper’ kicked off his first WWF World Title reign on somewhat of a fluke.

The match was decent, but overlong and delivered none of the promised thrills and spills. Significantly better than some of the other WrestleMania headliners of the era but far from the best.

#4 Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VI (April 1, 1990)

WrestleMania VI Hogan vs Warrior

The 1990s kicked off with a colossal headline attraction pitting the WWF World Champion against the Intercontinental Champion with both titles on the line.

World Champion, Hulk Hogan put over The Ultimate Warrior clean in a shocker, in what was supposed to be a passing of the torch moment between the WWF’s two biggest stars. Post-match, Hogan famously stole Warrior’s thunder by turning all the focus on his loss rather than Warrior’s victory.

The match was basic by today’s standards but was well regarded at the time as both participants worked hard and told a logical story. The finishing sequence where Hogan missed the Legdrop and Warrior nailed him with a splash was well done and felt like a seminal moment in time.

Unfortunately, bereft of credible opponents and a character that was less popular with adults than ‘The Hulkster’, Warrior floundered as champion and the belt was returned to Hogan via Sergeant Slaughter at the following year’s WrestleMania.

#3 Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor – WrestleMania XI (April 2, 1995)

WrestleMania XI Taylor vs Bigelow

When Bam Bam Bigelow, with his partner, Tatanka were dropped by preliminary wrestlers, Bob ‘Sparky Plugg’ Holly and The 1-2-3 Kid, at the 1995 Royal Rumble, few would have predicted he would headline WrestleMania two months later.

However, that’s exactly what happened, when they lost the Tag Team Title match-up. However, post-match, NFL legend, Lawrence Taylor was caught laughing at Bigelow, who took offence and shoved him to the floor in a memorable segment.

That led to the match, which was surprisingly promoted to the WrestleMania XI main event, in favour of the WWF Championship bout between Diesel and Shawn Michaels.

Unfortunately, for the company, the move did not pay off and the special attraction bout pitting Taylor against career mid-carder, Bigelow failed at the box office. WrestleMania XI pulled a paltry 340,000 buys.

However, despite its poor box office performance, the match was somewhat of a triumph. Bigelow expertly carried Taylor to a very creditable match. For a first-timer, Taylor more than played his part and put forth an impressive performance.

L.T. nailed Bigelow with a flying forearm to pull off the huge upset, capping off a very good match-up.

#2 Shawn Michaels vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania XIV (March 29, 1998)

WrestleMania XIV Stone Cold

The Austin Era kicked off in style in the headliner of WrestleMania XIV which pulled in a then-record 730,000 buys. Stone Cold pinned Shawn Michaels to claim the WWF World Title in a memorable contest.

In truth, the bout could have been better. However, Michaels entered the match with a serious lower back injury, which would sideline him from in-ring competition for several years. The pain was etched on ‘The Showstopper’s’ face throughout the contest, which only added to the drama.

Michaels gritted his teeth and put on a great performance. Stone Cold more than played his part as well, with a terrifically intense display.

The special enforcer, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson menacingly circled the ring. As a member of D-Generation X, he was expected to assist Michaels, but counted down the champion, after a fluid Sweet Chin Music/Stone Cold Stunner reversal finishing sequence.

Although not the five-star classic it could have been in different circumstances, the WrestleMania XIV main event was more than satisfactory and kicked off the most famous era in WWE history.

#1 The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania XV (March 28, 1999)

WrestleMania XV Stone Cold

The finest WrestleMania main event of the decade was also its last. Fought at WrestleMania XV, at the height of Attitude Era chaos, Stone Cold Steve Austin paid off a year’s worth of storytelling, by foiling Vince McMahon and defeating the Corporate WWF Champion, The Rock to claim his third WWF Title.

The bout was a back-and-forth battle, which saw both men nail their finishers, several referee bumps and an almighty amount of outside interference.

The finish came when ‘The Rattlesnake’ avoided a Rock Bottom and nailed the Stunner to win.

The match was a terrific brawl, fought at a great pace, with a molten hot Philadelphia crowd, who reacted to everything.

Despite being the best WrestleMania headliner of the decade, the contest was the weakest of The Rock and Stone Cold’s WrestleMania trilogy.

You can watch all these matches exclusively on the WWE Network.