Getting a win at WrestleMania is the highlight of many wrestlers’ careers. Winning on the Grandest Stage of Them All has launched careers, cemented legacies, and created moments that will live forever in wrestling history. But what about those wrestlers who lose? Over the years, far more wrestlers have emerged from WrestleMania with a big, fat “L” metaphorically hanging around their necks than have stood victoriously in front of massive fireworks displays and the adulation of the masses. You would think that such a huge loss would seriously affect their careers going forward. However, there have been several instances of wrestlers who lost at WrestleMania, and then instantly became far more successful afterwards. In fact, between WrestleMania 29 and 32, the wrestler who lost the second match to take place on the WrestleMania card ended up in the main event of the very next Pay Per View, which is an incredible bit of obscure trivia you can use to impress people. So if your favorite wrestler took a loss at this year’s show, don’t worry, it could just be the precursor to bigger and better things.
10. Ryback – WrestleMania XXIX
Ryback started off his WWE career as a pretty big deal, winning squash matches pretty easily, eventually working up to defeating multiple opponents at the same time. So when John Cena, who was challenging CM Punk for the WWE Title at Hell in a Cell, went down with an injury, Ryback was tapped as his emergency replacement. Unfortunately, being elevated to the main event sent Ryback into a bit of a tailspin, as he failed to dethrone Punk (who was in the middle of his legendary 434-day reign), then got embroiled in a war with The Shield that saw him come out on the losing end. By WrestleMania, he was on a significant streak of big losses, and there was concern that it had all been a case of “too much, too soon” for the Big Guy, which was underscored when he lost, unceremoniously, to Mark Henry in a meaningless undercard match on the show. However, the next night on Raw, Ryback shockingly turned heel and attacked John Cena, earning himself a series of WWE Title shots on Pay Per View over the next few months. While Ryback did not manage to wrest the title away from Cena, he did revitalize a career that had looked dangerously close to flaming out up to that point.
9. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX
Losing the WWE Title only minutes after you won it would be humiliating enough, but Yokozuna was defeated in mere seconds after an impromptu challenge from Hulk Hogan as WrestleMania IX came to a close, looking like a chump in the process. It was expected that Yokozuna’s career would then take the path of most monster heels to fall to the power of Hulkamania, falling back down the card after having being shown to be nowhere close to in the same league as Hogan. However, that’s not what happened, as Yokozuna would get a re-match against Hogan at the inaugural King of the Ring PPV a couple of months later (back in the day when there wasn’t a Pay Per View every 3-4 weeks). Yokozuna would proceed to not only defeat Hogan and regain the WWE Title, he would do so by crushing Hogan with his very own legdrop finisher. That would be the last appearance of Hogan in WWE for nearly a decade, and Yokozuna would go on to hold the title for the rest of the year, defeating challengers like Lex Luger and The Undertaker along the way.
8. Steve Austin – WrestleMania 13
Everyone usually forgets that Steve Austin lost his epic match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, passing out while in Hart’s Sharpshooter submission hold. Hart thought that by finally defeating Austin, he would end the long-running feud and be able to return to his goal of regaining the WWE Title that he had lost a year prior. However, while Hart would eventually be successful in his quest, winning what would turn out to be his final WWE Title over that summer, it was Austin who earned the ultimate victory. Austin rode the sympathy from the crowd into becoming the hottest babyface character that pro wrestling had ever seen, and while he was unsuccessful in his first ever one-on-one shot at the WWE Title as The Undertaker’s first title defense after winning it at WrestleMania, Austin would become an unstoppable juggernaut over the ensuing months. By the time WrestleMania XIV rolled around, Austin was the biggest star in the industry, and he carried WWE on his back into a golden age of prosperity.
7. The Rock – WrestleMania 2000
So, with Steve Austin down with a serious neck injury, The Rock became the biggest star in the company, gaining momentum as WrestleMania approached, and looked to be the guy to end the McMahon-Helmsley Era for good. Things looked even better for him when Vince McMahon returned, full of righteous fury at his duplicitous daughter, and aligned with The People’s Champion. And then Vince turned on him at WrestleMania, and Triple H became the first heel in WWE history to leave WrestleMania with the WWE Title. Fortunately, this was all just a delaying tactic by WWE, who had postponed the inevitable Triple H-Rock singles match from WrestleMania in favor of the “A McMahon In Every Corner” gimmick. The Rock would get another shot at Backlash, and this time, thanks to some intervention on his behalf by the injured Austin, would end up pinning Triple H and winning the WWE Title. Of course, then he would lose it again at Judgment Day and get it back at King of the Ring (because the Attitude Era was crazy), but the point is, eventually, he did actually bring an end to the McMahon-Helmsley Regime and ended up as champion in the process.
6. John Cena – WrestleMania XXVII
By now we know that nothing stops John Cena, least of all a humiliating loss to The Miz in the main event of WrestleMania. Yes, that really happened, The Rock was involved, it made no sense. We don’t want to get into an argument about whether or not The Miz deserved to be WWE Champion in the first place (he totally did), but by WrestleMania, he was basically a non-factor, and the writing was on the wall for his title reign, and his time in the main event. Cena, because he can overcome anything on a long enough timeline, would recover from this ridiculous loss (technically, he lost twice, first by double countout and then via pinfall) and win the title from The Miz in a Triple Threat Steel Cage match at Extreme Rules barely a month later. After failing to beat Cena in an “I Quit” match (which consisted of Cena taking a ridiculous 2-on-1 beating from Miz and Alex Riley, at one point being handcuffed to the ringpost and hit with kendo sticks, and still winning the match because he never gives up and yadda yadda yadda), Miz disappeared from the top of the card for good, and Cena would hold the WWE Title for several months before losing it to CM Punk in a match nobody probably remembers at the Money in the Bank PPV.
5. Vince McMahon – WrestleMania 23
At WrestleMania 23, Vince McMahon suffered the ultimate indignity. Not only was his hand-picked Superstar, Umaga, defeated by Donald Trump’s champion, Lashley, Vince had his head shaved in the middle of the ring by Trump, Lashley, and Steve Austin. Few men would dare show their face again, but Vince is nothing if not a terrible human being bent on revenge, so he was right back on TV, with a variety of head coverings ranging from dapper fedoras to truly inexplicable do-rags, seeking some way to get back at Lashley for his defeat. And boy, did he come up with one hell of a plan, booking Lashley into a 3-on-1 handicap match against Umaga, Vince, and Shane McMahon for the ECW Championship. Vince would end up getting the pin and, by the rules of the match, becoming ECW Champion as a result, quite a turnaround from being humiliated at WrestleMania. Admittedly, it was a booking decision which didn’t make a lot of sense, but did allow him to basically bury the last remnants of the WWE revival of ECW mattering even a little bit (Lashley would eventually win the belt back, but immediately vacated it when he was drafted to Raw).
4. Randy Orton – WrestleMania 25
Hey, remember when Randy Orton was basically demolishing Triple H’s family, including his father-in-law, brother-in-law, and wife? And how he got doctors to declare him not responsible for his heinous actions due to a very real medical condition (Orton didn’t actually have it, but Intermittent Explosive Disorder actually exists)? Well, if you remember that, you’ll also remember that a vengeful Triple H soundly defeated Orton in the main event of WrestleMania 25, in a bad match where Triple H would have lost the WWE Title had he been disqualified or gotten counted out. With the Orton problem now dealt with, Triple H would go on to a long and prosperous title reign where actually, we’re just kidding, Randy Orton got another match with Triple H at the very next Pay Per View and won the title, then put Triple H out of action for several months with an injury. So, yeah, the bad guy ended up getting everything he ever wanted a month after the allegedly virtuous babyface put him down on the biggest possible stage. And people wonder why WWE gets accused of not being able to tell good stories.
3. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania X-8
Another match where people often forget who actually won, the classic bout between The Rock and Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania ended with Hogan losing cleanly to the People’s Elbow, while the live crowd’s reactions turned him from the despised leader of the New World Order back into the founder of Hulkamania. Following the unanticipated fan support for Hogan’s return to WWE, Vince McMahon decided to strike while the iron was hot, and instantly awarded Hogan a shot at Triple H’s newly-won Undisputed Title. Then, somehow, Hogan managed to defeat Triple H and win a WWE title for the first time since 1993. Unfortunately, fan reaction quickly cooled when it became apparent that Hogan was years past his physical prime and simply couldn’t keep up with WWE’s younger Superstars anymore. However, it’s hard to fault WWE for thinking they could ride a Hogan nostalgia wave to some easy ratings points and PPV buys, based on how much crowds initially seemed to absolutely love having Hogan back in WWE.
2. Bret Hart – WrestleMania X
Sometimes, wrestlers haven’t even waited until WrestleMania ends to find a way to make up for a huge loss earlier in the evening. In the case of Bret Hart, he went into his match against his brother, Owen Hart, knowing that even if the worst happened and he failed to defeat Owen, he would still have a shot at the WWE Title in the main event. The fight with Owen was really just an exhibition match designed to ensure that both Hart and whomever won between Lex Luger and Yokozuna would both wrestle the same number of times on the show. But the match was personal, extremely so, and Bret ended up waging a lengthy war against his brother, which ended when a single mistake gave the surprising win to Owen. However, Hart rallied later in the night, despite having already competed in a grueling battle with Owen and facing the much larger Yokozuna in his second match of the show, defeating the mammoth wrestler and emerging victorious as the new WWE Champion.
1. Seth Rollins – Wrestlemania 31
Speaking of wrestlers who didn’t wait long to bounce back from a WrestleMania loss, Seth Rollins has to take the cake for rebounding in the most dramatic fashion possible. In the second match of the show, Rollins entered a match with long-running nemesis Randy Orton, who was looking for revenge against Rollins for stabbing him in the back and being a major factor in Orton’s removal from The Authority. In a surprisingly good match, Orton ultimately got the upper hand on Rollins, finishing things with one of the most spectacular RKO finishers ever delivered. Rollins would suffer greatly during his match with Orton, but he would end the night by getting the last laugh. During the main event, a match between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Rollins saw an opportunity and pounced, running in during the match to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, taking advantaged of two weakened foes to steal away a victory and the WWE World Heavyweight title. It was one of the most shocking moments in WrestleMania history, and the best example possible of how losing at WrestleMania can lead to much bigger things, sometimes sooner than anyone could believe.