The writing was long on the wall. It was a surprise to few that Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar would stage a reprisal of their 2021 Crown Jewel bout at April’s upcoming WrestleMania 38. In the ensuing months between Crown Jewel and the ‘Road to WrestleMania’ Lesnar became WWE champion, upping the stakes of his upcoming match against Reigns. It is set to be a champion vs. champion, unification bout to unite the WWE championship, held by Lesnar, and the WWE Universal Championship, currently held by Reigns.
Notable WWE Champion vs Champion Matches
Throughout WWE history, notable champion vs. champion encounters, which set the precedent for WrestleMania 38’s main event include:
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan
April 1, the eve of WrestleMania Saturday, also marks the anniversary of Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan’s 1990 WrestleMania 6 bout. Despite the controversy attached to both their names in later years, the 1990 WrestleMania main event is a seismic installment in WWE’s history, simply for the fan furor around it at the time. Though his star waned quickly due to self destructive behavior, in 1990 Warrior was the reigning Intercontinental Champion and Hogan’s rival in a rare babyface vs. babyface feud for not just the top echelon of WWF, but the hearts and minds of its youthful audience. Hogan had been WWF’s dominant star for several years. However, at the Toronto, Ontario, Canada event, Warrior momentarily eclipsed him. Claiming the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at the same time.
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
The recent passing of Scott Hall, aka Razor Ramon, called to mind the simple fact that he is part of a distinctive club of WWE-associated wrestlers. Despite his lauded notoriety, he never held a World Championship title within WWE. However, Hall/Ramon was a notable Intercontinental Champion. In the lead-up to WrestleMania X, Ramon and Shawn Michaels both claimed to be the Intercontinental Champion. The matter was set to be decided at WrestleMania 10. With a stipulation that was rare at that time: a ladder match. The WWE, then WWF’s, first ladder match was fought between Michaels and real-life rival Bret Hart. Who was familiar with the concept from his family’s legendary Canadian promotion Stampede Wrestling. However, the mere words ‘Shawn vs. Razor’ evokes to pro wrestling fans the true genesis of the ladder match, setting the stage for the hardcore antics of the “Attitude Era” to come.
Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy
By the turn of the millennium, Hall/Ramon’s and Michaels’s groundbreaking ladder match had set the bedrock for a new generation of high-flying extreme wrestlers like Jeff and Matt Hardy. As well as their frequent rivals Edge and Christian, and Rob Van Dam, who migrated to WWE when they acquired ECW. Van Dam and Hardy shared an airborne skill set, and in 2002 on Monday Night Raw they battled in a unification ladder match to unite the Intercontinental and European Championships. Van Dam was victorious in the match that showed the high-flying antics of both wrestlers.
CM Punk vs. John Cena
WWE of the 2010s is sometimes referred to as the “Reality Era”. Not only did this era launch actual reality-era television programming like Total Divas, but WWE storylines themselves were punctuated with an air of high drama. The feud between the decade’s top star, John Cena, and the era’s alternative icon CM Punk had several twists and turns. In 2011, Punk and Cena found themselves in a similar predicament as Ramon and Michaels had faced in their Intercontinental championship feud of nearly a decade before. Both laid claim to the WWE championship. Their champion vs champion match was the main event of 2011’s SummerSlam, and the genuinely admirable bout ended with a brief victory for Punk, until cash-in by then Mr. Money in the Bank Alberto Del Rio.
Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bayley
The women of NXT are represented by 2019’s Survivor Series’s cross-brand showdown between the NXT, Monday Night Raw, and Friday Night SmackDown women’s champions, Becky Lynch, Shayna Baszler, and Bayley. The “Wednesday Night Wars” between NXT and All Elite Wrestling was nascent, and crossover between NXT and the main roster was frequent as, at that time. WWE was confident that its third brand could knock out the fledgling competition. Lynch was on top of the world in the heyday of her “The Man” gimmick, Bayley had left “The Hugger” behind and was in the early days of her heel turn, and Baszler had been built up as a near-invincible, vicious contender. The victory went to Baszler in this showdown between all three of WWE’s women’s champions at the time, but she was attacked immediately post-victory by Lynch.
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