After watching the fantastic new WWE DVD, The True Story of WrestleMania, I was inspired to pose -- and at least attempt -- to answer that very question. For me, it comes down to 6 names. Let's take a look at their WrestleMania records (the records include only matches, not appearances):
vs. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper (with Mr. T), WrestleMania
vs. King Kong Bundy, WrestleMania 2
vs. Andre The Giant, WrestleMania 3
vs. Andre The Giant, WrestleMania 4
vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, WrestleMania 5
vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania 6
vs. Sgt. Slaughter, WrestleMania 7
vs. Sid Justice, WrestleMania 8
vs. Money Inc. (with Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake); vs. Yokozuna, WrestleMania 9
vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 18
vs. Vince McMahon, WrestleMania 19
WrestleMania never would have gotten off the ground without Hogan. As much as celebrities like Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper helped grab mainstream attention for the inaugural event, Hogan was the face of the company and its biggest star. And beyond that, he was the face of WrestleMania (and the WWF) for the first 9 years of the event.
Moreover, his match with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3 is still considered by many hardcore and casual wrestling fans as the biggest match of all-time.
And his return to WrestleMania in Toronto against The Rock (the only WrestleMania I've attended) was amazing. It was the match that Toronto wanted to see the most, and I knew that even though Hogan was supposed to be the heel heading into the match, he was going to receive the loudest reaction.
I have never been part of a crowd with a more electric atmosphere. Only Hogan could have created that.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
vs. Savio Vega, WrestleMania 12
vs. Bret "The Hitman" Hart, WrestleMania 13
vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 14
vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 15
vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 17
vs. Scott Hall, WrestleMania 18
vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 19
His resume may not be as long as most others on the list, but as far as big-time matches go, he's at least on par with anyone else.
His match with Hart is what put him on the map as a major WWF superstar. It was also the match that saved WrestleMania 13 from being a total disaster.
His match at WrestleMania 14 against Michaels, which also had Mike Tyson as a special guest enforcer, helped propel the WWF to heights of popularity that it had never seen before.
And his series of matches with The Rock helped define that generation of WWF wrestling. In my opinion, from 1997-2001, Austin meant as much to the WWF and WrestleMania as Hogan did from 1985-1990.
vs. Big Show, WrestleMania 20
vs. JBL, WrestleMania 21
vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 22
vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 23
vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton, WrestleMania 24
vs. Edge vs. Big Show, WrestleMania 25
vs. Batista, WrestleMania 26
Perhaps it's too early to put Cena's name amongst such elite company, but when his career is over, I think his WrestleMania record will stack up with anyone's record. He could main event the next 10 WrestleManias for all we know.
Even still, his current record is impressive. I remember watching him give the FU to Big Show at Madison Square Garden at WrestleMania 20 and knowing that the next big superstar was born.
And ever since that first match at Mania, he's been in the (co-)main event of every subsequent show.
Furthermore, his match against Michaels at WrestleMania 23 remains the most watched main event in the show's history. (Of course, Michaels deserves the same, and probably more, credit.)
Vs. Jimmy Snuka, WrestleMania 7
vs. Jake Roberts, WrestleMania 8
vs. Giant Gonzalez, WrestleMania 9
vs. King Kong Bundy, WrestleMania 11
vs. Diesel, WrestleMania 12
vs. Sid Vicious, WrestleMania 13
vs. Kane, WrestleMania 14
vs. Big Bossman, WrestleMania 15
vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 17
vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 18
vs. Big Show and A-Train, WrestleMania 19
vs. Kane, WrestleMania 20
vs. Randy Orton, WrestleMania 21
vs. Mark Henry, WrestleMania 22
vs. Batista, WrestleMania 23
vs. Edge, WrestleMania 24
vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 25
vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 26
Along with Shawn Michaels, he's the person most commonly associated with WrestleMania by current wrestling fans. Over the past five years, he's become the face of WrestleMania -- WWE has counted on him being in the main event (or co-main event).
In other words, "The Streak" has become one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- selling points of WrestleMania. But it really has been only in the past 5 years that his streak has been portrayed as a big deal.
And of course, if we're going to give him credit for the matches he's had with guys like Michaels, Triple H and Edge, we need to acknowledge that he's had his fair share of misses on the biggest stage. His match against Sid at WrestleMania 13, for instance, is probably the worst main event in Mania history.
vs. The Orient Express (with Marty Jannetty), WrestleMania 6
vs. The Barbarian and Haku (with Marty Jannetty), WrestleMania 7
vs. Tito Santana, WrestleMania 8
vs. Tatanka, WrestleMania 9
vs. Razor Ramon, WrestleMania 10
vs. Diesel, WrestleMania 11
vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 12
vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania 14
vs. Chris Jericho, WrestleMania 19
vs. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 20
vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania 21
vs. Vince McMahon, WrestleMania 22
vs. John Cena, WrestleMania 23
vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 24
vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 25
vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 26
Of course, Michaels is the self-proclaimed "Mr. WrestleMania". But is it true? From an in-ring standpoint, there's no doubt he matches up better than anyone else on the list.
His run of matches from WrestleMania 19 to 26 is more impressive than anyone else's run. And when you throw in 3 of his matches before that -- against Razor, Hart, and Austin -- his WrestleMania resume is downright remarkable. (I'm running out of adjectives to use.)
vs. Shane McMahon, WrestleMania 17
vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania 19
vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 22
vs. Donald Trump's Hair, WrestleMania 23
vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 26
Of course, McMahon should be evaluated on much more than what he's done in the ring (although that's pretty impressive too).
WrestleMania was McMahon's brainchild, and the biggest risk he's ever taken. Many within the industry (and his own company) doubted that the first WrestleMania would succeed. But succeed it did, becoming WWE's biggest annual cash cow.
It represents the peak of every "wrestling season." It's the one event that every wrestler in the industry -- and every aspiring wrestler -- wants to make their mark on.
Undoubtedly, there would be no WrestleMania without Vince McMahon.
Honourable Mention: Triple H, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, The Rock
So ... who is Mr. WrestleMania? It depends on the criteria you believe to be most important.
If you think it should be the wrestler most influential in getting the event off the ground; and the wrestler who was the face of the event for its first 9 years, then Mr. WrestleMania is Hulk Hogan.
If you think it should be the wrestler who headlined 4 WrestleManias during the hottest period in WWF history, then Mr. WrestleMania is Steve Austin.
If you think it should be the wrestler with the most long-term potential, then Mr. WrestleMania is John Cena.
If you think it should be the wrestler who has never been defeated at the big event, then Mr. WrestleMania is The Undertaker.
If you think it should be the wrestler who has had the best matches, then Mr. WrestleMania is Shawn Michaels.
If you think it should be the man who built and developed the event, then Mr. WrestleMania is Vince McMahon.
(And if you really want to piss off Donnie, then Mr. WrestleMania is Bret Hart.)
What do you think, O-sters? Who is Mr. WrestleMania?