Wrestlemania is the place where the biggest dream matches of all time take place within WWE…but sometimes, Vince and co forget to inform the fans that these collisions have already taken place somewhere else in the wrestling world. Since 1985, ten singles matches on the main cards of Wrestlemania had already been seen in other promotions at some point before all participants reached WWE/F, and I’m going to rank them based on their historical importance and quality – here are the Top 10 Wrestlemania Matches that had Already Taken Place Outside of WWE.
For this list, I’m only including matches that were broadcast live on PPV or on the WWE Network, no dark matches will be accepted. Also, I won’t include opponents that faced each other in multi-man matches – they must have competed one-on-one both at Wrestlemania, and before they reached WWE. With that being said, let’s get started.
10. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Okay, so this one is so low down on the list because at the time of posting, it hasn’t actually happened yet, but it’s definitely taking place so it counts! Also, it’s fair to say you were all expecting this one.
Their IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 was simply a masterclass in every aspect of wrestling, and marked the last singles appearance in New Japan for both of these men. The way both men were able to trade holds and reversals effortlessly at such a fast pace, as well Shinsuke’s undeniable charisma, catching AJ’s imaginary bullet and proceeding to eat it, the stiff strikes, and the beautiful back-and-forth throughout, all made it a MOTY candidate.
So when both men quickly jumped to WWE in the coming months, it’s no surprise that fans instantly wanted to see these square off again, but this time, on the other side of the world. Well, two years later, we are finally getting to see this well-built Wrestlemania championship match, and hopefully, it will steal the show at the biggest show of the year.
9. Adrian Adonis vs. Roddy Piper
Here we have a match that took place at one of the biggest Wrestlemania’s of all time – Wrestlemania III. Sure, it’s not Savage vs. Steamboat, or Hogan vs. Andre, but regardless, it still happened in front of tens of thousands of people, and what’s more, it had already taken place elsewhere before 1987…..hence why I’m writing about it. Eight years prior, Adonis and Piper had a series of matches fighting in the NWA across Oregon and California.
Admittedly, absolutely no-one is talking about any of these matches today, except for me of course, but still, nerds like us thrive on pointless information such as this.
8. Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy
At Wrestlemania 25, we saw one of the most personal matches in the event’s long-running history – an extreme rules war between two genuine brothers, who were once one of the world’s most iconic tag teams. Matt and Jeff destroyed each other throughout this rivalry, yet it’s well known that the siblings had been fighting well before they ever signed on Vince’s dotted line.
Matt and Jeff faced each other dozens of times for local promotions throughout North Carolina in their early years, and even faced-off in their very own promotion, OMEGA, right before they signed with WWE. Now, as huge as this feud was in both WWE and TNA, their matches prior to the big time weren’t exactly the talk of the wrestling world, hence why it ranks so low on this list.
7. Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior
Rude vs. Warrior from Wrestlemania 5 isn’t exactly the most talked about match from either man’s career, or even the most talked about match these two had together, that honour goes to Summerslam 1990. Nevertheless, it’s still a Wrestlemania match, dammit, and, you guessed it, it had already happened years before in WCWA. At the time, Warrior wasn’t exactly Ultimate, he was just a Dingo, and in 1986, the Dingo Warrior had a televised match with the man he would face at Wrestlemania just three years later.
6. Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd
One of the most promoted fights at the very first Wrestlemania was the body slam challenge between two of the company’s biggest stars (literally). Big John Studd inevitably failed to slam the mammoth Andre to nobody’s surprise…..and of course fans weren’t surprised when Andre beat John several times throughout the early 80s in the NWA and NJPW either. In fact, these two were facing off all the way back in the mid-70s in the WWWF, run by Vince McMahon Sr, with Andre coming out on top every single time.
5. Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Two of WWE’s best in-ring workers during the 2000s collided at the much heralded Wrestlemania X-Seven, in a stellar show-opening affair. Of course, years before, back when Regal was a lord and Jericho was a cruiserweight, the two battled in WCW, on house shows and one episode of Monday Nitro. Whilst their WCW encounters are nothing to go in-depth about, having the opening match at what many believe to be the greatest Wrestlemania of all time is certainly something worth discussing.
4. Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy
From Saturday Night’s Main Events, to Superstars, to Survivor Series, to Prime Time Wrestling, and of course, to Wrestlemania II, Hogan and Bundy fought a LOT in WWF during the 1980s, however the first and only other place outside of the WWF that these two fought was in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
In January 1985, Bundy and Hogan met twice during the NJPW New Year Golden Series tournament – by September of that year, the two were fighting on NESN for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. It truly is amazing how quickly American members of the New Japan roster were turned into global superstars by WWF during that period.
3. Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter
When Sgt. Slaughter turned his back on America, Hulk Hogan had to put a stop to it in one of the most controversial (and unsuccessful) Wrestlemania main events of all time. Although WWF would have wanted you to think differently, this was not the first time these two touched inside a ring. Ten years prior to Wrestlemania VII, Slaughter and Hogan fought several times in New Japan Pro Wrestling, from 1981 to 1982 in multiple singles and tag team matches. They actually had quite the rivalry going at the time, which was rare for gaijin talents.
Slaughter and Hogan never once teamed together, either in New Japan or WWF – they were always opponents. Even when they were both flying the red, white and blue, they just couldn’t fight on the same side of the war.
2. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
Rey and Eddie fought each other….a lot. They even once fought over the custody of a child, how fun! Perhaps their biggest scrap in the realm of WWE was at Wrestlemania 21, which would sadly be Eddie’s final appearance at the show of shows. However, to this day, their most talked about match together took place in 1997 at WCW Halloween Havoc. Eddie and Rey left viewers around their world aghast at their incredible feats of athleticism. This became an incredibly influential match for cruiserweight wrestlers around the world, and to this day, hardly anyone can come close to the drama and spectacle these two created on that October night.
- Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Yes, the biggest main event in Wrestlemania history happened years before in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The irresistible force vs. the immovable object occurred multiple times, both in singles and tag team matches from 1980 to 1984. In fact, something Vinny Mac probably hoped none of his fans remembered back in 1987 was that Andre and Hogan actually had matches in the WWF all the way back in 1980, even before their collisions in New Japan! Granted, most were house shows, yet a singles match between the two was broadcast on the MSG Network in 1980, and another in 1981.
So when the WWF were building their biggest show of all time around this monumental clash between two sensations, any fans who had attended a WWF house show in the early 80s, or watched the MSG Network during that time, or just happened to catch a New Japan Pro Wrestling show up until 1984, they’d probably already seen it…Granted, Hogan and Andre were nowhere near the levels of megastar they were by the time Wrestlemania 3 rolled around, and their previous encounters didn’t have the added excitement of 90,000 ecstatic fans screaming throughout, yet that doesn’t change the fact this record-setting main-event match not only had happened multiple times before, it had taken place on both sides of the world in two of the biggest promotions in history.