Corrigan’s Corner: 31 Greatest WrestleMania Builds

Sorry, "My Way" doesn't top the list.

WWE Fastlane has passed and now we’re 42 days away until the Grandest Stage of Em All: WrestleMania 32.

Can you feel the excitement? That sensation only comes between January and April, and it’s not because of Girl Scout Cookies. Although in some years, like 2015 for instance, a Samoa drenched in milk helped us cope with the disappointing buildup to Silicon Valley.

In other years, though, such as 2001, you’d give up a whole sleeve of Thin Mints for a nosebleed seat at the Astrodome.

So without further overpriced metaphors, ($4 a g’damn box?) here are the 31 builds to WrestleMania, ranked!

31. VII

Whether or not you were offended by the Iraqi sympathizer storyline, numbers don’t lie. Having to change arenas because of poor ticket sales indicates that this was the worst build to a Mania.

30. IX

Pretty basic: The unstoppable monster (Yokozuna) wins the Royal Rumble, earning a shot against the unproven, underdog champion (Bret Hart). Also, Brutus Beefcake returns to action after almost three years cutting and blindly strutting, and gets attacked by Money Inc. Jimmy Hart tries to protect The Barber, and then they recruit the Hulkster for a Tag Title bout.


29. 31

Five days before the Showcase of the Immortals, with just one statement on ESPN, the Beast Incarnate fueled more anticipation into the annual extravaganza than WWE had done in months. A tug of war over the gold? Esqueeze me?

28. 22

Triple H won a three week tournament to face John Cena for the RAW Title, while Rey Mysterio won the Rumble in honor of his fallen amigo Eddie Guerrero to challenge for the Smackdown title. The ultimate underdog’s pursuit of glory would have been a solid storyline if not for the exploitation of Eddie’s death lathered throughout the chase.


Although the main event was slated as John Cena challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship, the return of The Rock and his real-life beef with Fruity Pebble Boy overshadowed the title bout. But WWE threw together an awesome tribute video for Miz, which would have been more beneficial to be played on RAW rather than before his entrance at the already-ordered or potentially skipped WrestleMania.

26. 13

A clusterfuck of epic proportions, the original plan was for a Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels rematch from the year prior. However, tensions ran high and HBK “lost his smile,” a euphemism for suffering a knee injury and losing his mojo for life. With the WWF Championship vacated, a four corners elimination match was scheduled between Hart, Undertaker, Vader and Stone Cold. The Hitman won the title, but then lost it to Sycho Sid the next night on RAW after Austin interfered. Somehow this led to Taker vs. Sid with about one week’s build. At least the 6-month feud between Hart and Austin saved the show.

25. 29

We knew John Cena would avenge his loss the previous year by once again winning the WWE Championship and we knew Triple H would not lose two in a row to Brock Lesnar. But we also knew CM Punk and Undertaker would tear down the house after Punk provoked The Deadman with a distasteful parody of the late (talking just days passed here) Paul Bearer.

24. X-8

Similar to Rock overshadowing Miz, Chris Jericho’s Undisputed Title reign was merely a sidebar of the Stephanie McMahon-Triple H domestic dispute. Jericho was so whipped he had to walk Steph’s dog, Lucy!

23. XII

WrestleMania XII was truly a one match show, and that’s all it was set up to be as revolutionary video packages showed Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels training for the first ever Ironman Match.

22. IV

A record-breaking angle boosts WrestleMania IV’s build because while the unpredictable nature of a tournament prevents concrete promotion, Ted DiBiase paying for a referee’s plastic surgery to act as Dave Hebner and count Andre’s pin on Hogan despite his shoulder being up…is genius.

21. 2

King Kong Bundy crushed Hulk Hogan’s ribs, George “The Animal” Steele infuriated Randy Savage by longing for Miss Elizabeth’s affection, and Roddy Piper continued his war with Mr. T. Nothing spectacular, but certainly effective.

20. XIX

Brock Lesnar won the Royal Rumble, earning a title shot against fellow badass amateur wrestler Kurt Angle. Stone Cold returned to WWE, pissing off The Rock who had been 0-2 against Austin at Mania. Chris Jericho vowed to outperform his role model, the Showstoppa Shawn Michaels. And Triple H said blacks can’t win titles.

19. XI

Perhaps not since the inaugural show had a WrestleMania achieved such mainstream attention as Lawrence Taylor battled Bam Bam Bigelow.

18. X

Would Lex Luger or Bret Hart slay Yokozuna for the WWF Championship? Fans debated the answer in the weeks leading up to the 10th anniversary of the Grandest Stage as both men were declared Royal Rumble winners. Plus, the anticipation of the first Ladder Match and weasel Owen Hart squaring off with his big brother set expectations high.

17. 23

At the time, WrestleMania 23 set the all-time buy rate record so clearly, weeks of Donald Trump chanting “Let’s Go Bobby!” was fantastic buildup. That and the notion that either Trump’s head jungle or McMahon’s pompadour would be shaved bald by the Texas Rattlesnake.


16. XXIV

As soon as Floyd Mayweather busted Big Show’s nose with a legit fury of fists, WrestleMania XXIV was ON. Add the emotional roller coaster of Ric Flair wrestling his final match and this became mandatory viewing.

15. 2000

In hindsight, there was too much McMahon family drama…but as a kid, this got me hooked. The Rock fighting Triple H’s reign of terror as Mick Foley comes out of retirement and Big Show does Big Show things.

14. VIII

It was supposed to be Hulk vs. Flair, but we got a pretty cool Sid vs. Hulk and “she was mine before she was yours.”


The only match to get a one-year’s build—as soon as The Rock agreed to face John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, I told my friends we’re buying tickets. Thus, we popped our Mania cherries. Thanks, Rock.

12. VI

For the first time ever, the company’s two biggest heroes would face off in the main event of WrestleMania. Fans debated for weeks who to side with in the Ultimate Challenge: the rising, multicolored, tassled maniac or the red-and-yellow childhood staple?

11. XV

The Attitude Era was in full swing as Stone Cold overcame every McMahon-thrown obstacle for six months to face the Corporate Champion, and Austin’s ultimate rival, The Rock.

10. 21

Regardless of the matches, the theme guaranteed a fun time as hilarious movie spoofs starring WWE Superstars aired for weeks and weeks in honor of WrestleMania going Hollywood. Add John Cena challenging for his first world title, Kurt Angle meeting Shawn Michaels in a dream match, and Batista’s classic thumbs down on Triple H, and you’ve got a night of Oscar proportions.

9. XX

The 20th anniversary appeal was in full force with a return to Madison Square Garden, “where it all begins…again.” Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble, earning a title shot against the seemingly unbeatable Triple H and Shawn Michaels was thrown in, just for kicks. One month after doing the unfathomable and winning the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero was slated to defend against the Olympic gold medalist.

Speaking of Brock, his seemingly dream match with Goldberg got an extra boost as Stone Cold was named special referee. A much anticipated return to the darkside was alluded to for The Undertaker and oh yeah, The Rock was coming back to team with Mick Foley against Evolution.

What more do you NEED!?

8. XXV

Keep that anniversary lovin’ coming as WrestleMania retrospectives were spliced throughout RAW and Smackdown in the weeks leading up to the silver edition. Randy Orton terrorized the McMahon family, including forcing himself upon an unconscious Stephanie while her handcuffed husband watched, and Chris Jericho attacked WWE Hall of Famers while challenging Micky Rourke to test out the squared circle away from Hollywood’s watchful eye.

It was also a classic tale of Heaven vs. Hell as the Heartbreak Kid threatened to end The Undertaker’s Streak.


My favorite video package ever tells you why WrestleMania XXVI was do-or-die:

6. XIV

The baddest man on the planet meets the world’s toughest son of a bitch. In a move that shifted the tide of the Monday Night War and ultimately helped WWF defeat WCW, “Iron” Mike Tyson was brought in to referee Stone Cold’s title shot against D-X kingpin Shawn Michaels.

Plus, the unholy brothers would finally clash as Undertaker agreed to face his scarred, tormented and resurrected kin, Kane.

5. X-7

Taking a page out of WrestleMania VI, the two biggest (anti) heroes collided for the second time at the Showcase of the Immortals. While Stone Cold was injured through most of 2000, The Rock emerged as the WWF’s hottest star. When Austin returned, he was hellbent on reclaiming the top spot, and most importantly, the WWF Championship.

And in some epic foreshadowing, the Rattlesnake reiterated that he would win by any means necessary.

4. III

Perhaps the simplest storytelling, the main event of WrestleMania III was set up within four weeks of interviews, all taking place on Piper’s Pit. President Jack Tunney presented Hulk Hogan with a trophy for his three-year reign as WWF Champion and the Hulkster’s buddy Andre came out to congratulate him, saying “Three years as champion is a long time.”

The next week Andre received a trophy (albeit smaller) for his 15-year undefeated streak. As he was about to make some remarks, Hogan emerged, congratulating his buddy for all his success. Andre abruptly left; Hulk chalked it up to modesty.

The week after, Jesse Ventura spoke with Piper about the size of the trophies, Hogan ducking Andre for three years and the rumblings of a wrestling Watergate about to go down.

And finally, the most famous Pit of ‘em all:

3. XXX

Building since SummerSlam, Daniel Bryan’s chaotic journey to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship included no entry into the Rumble, joining and fleeing the Wyatt Family, an Occupy RAW protest and Mick Foley smashing his TV with a baseball bat.

2. V

“You’ve got jealous eyes!”

You’re damn right he did, Macho. After a year of Hulk Hogan weaseling his way between Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, Macho Man had enough and attacked the red and yellow green ex-champion in front of a panic-stricken Liz.

The Mega Powers were about to explode and the wrestling world would never be the same.


You wouldn’t be reading this list if it wasn’t for the record-breaking, mind-blowing buildup to WrestleMania I.

The Rock N Wrestling Era launched the summer before as MTV broadcasted the first live pro wrestling match on cable television with The Brawl to End It All, which was followed up by The War to Settle the Score one month before Mania.

Actors, singers, politicians, athletes all converged to promote the spectacle and launch the WWF, and really pro wrestling, into the mainstream conscience.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper and his cronies, Paul Orndorff and “Cowboy” Bob Orton, wreaked havoc upon Hollywood, MTV and the wrestling world, targeting Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan.

Everybody had to see what would happen when the bell finally rang and these pop culture titans clashed.

32 years later, we’re still watching.

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