For many years, Saturday Night's Main Event was the defining television for professional wrestling.
Whereas the weekly syndicated shows were more frequent and readily available to the masses, Saturday Night's Main Event was a special that featured competitive matches, storyline developments and acted as a prime time showcase for the top names in the WWF.
Without SNME as a broadcast vehicle, it can be argued that the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior wouldn't have been as successful as they were.
To compile our field, we poured through all 36 specials. This included the initial 24 episodes that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1991; the five annual specials between 1988 and 1991 dubbed The Main Event because they didn't air on Saturday nights; the two episodes that aired on Fox in 1992, and the five episodes that aired on NBC from 2006 to 2008. Only televised matches were considered (e.g. no dark matches or bouts filmed for other television programs).
In compiling a list of the Top 50 Saturday Night's Main Event Matches, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories looked at the following criteria:
What was truly unique about them?
How historically significant was the match to WWF/E?
Was the match a good showcase for what the wrestler or character could do?
How did the result help to advance WWF/E storylines?
Note: Several matches happened on multiple episode of Saturday Night's Main Event; we have consolidated those into a single entry.
If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
Batista, John Cena & Cryme Tyme vs. Kane, JBL & The Legacy
The first match in the final episode of Saturday Night's Main Event aired on August 2, 2008. Teammates Batista and John Cena were set to battle at SummerSlam, while JBL was feuding with World Champion CM Punk (commentating at ringside). The heels won the match.
The Young Stallions vs. The Hart Foundation
While The Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers) made several SNME appearances, this October 3, 1987 match was their only tag team championship opportunity. Despite fighting valiantly against Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, The Stallions ended up being no match for The Hart Foundation.
The Ultimate Warrior & The Legion Of Doom vs. Demolition
The opening match of the October 13, 1990 SNME featured six men dressed in warpaint, with the Warrior, Hawk and Animal out to prove that they were tougher than Ax, Smash and Crush. While Team Demolition gave quite a fight, they ended up losing to Team Warrior, adding scars to the feud with Demolition.
John Cena vs. Carlito
On August 18, 2007, WWE Champion John Cena defended his title against an old enemy in the form of Carlito. After a few minutes, Cena got Carlito to tap to his STFU submission hold, but the Champ's night wasn't over. Randy Orton, who was feuding with Cena, nailed him with a vicious RKO.
Hulk Hogan & Andre The Giant vs. King Kong Bundy & Big John Studd
When this episode aired on October 31, 1985, it featured the four biggest names in the WWF in World Champion Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and the top heel team of King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Hogan and Andre prevailed.
Hulk Hogan & Sid Justice vs. Ric Flair & The Undertaker
A high-stakes tag team match aired on the February 8, 1992 edition of SNME, presumably to highlight the coming WrestleMania match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Sid Justice turned on Hogan, changing the course of Mania, and later on, The Undertaker turned face.
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy
More than a year removed from their WrestleMania II encounter, Hulk Hogan defended his WWF Title against King Kong Bundy. In the November 28, 1987 encounter, Bundy won by countout, but in the January 2, 1988 rematch, Hogan won. Afterwards, Andre The Giant (in Bundy's corner) ambushed The Hulkster.
Tito Santana vs. Rick Martel
Tito Santana and Rick Martel had appeared on SNME together as Strike Force, but the team dissolved at WrestleMania V. On October 14, 1989, the two battled it out, with their respective Survivor Series tag teams (captained by Dusty Rhodes and Big Bossman) at ringside, leading to a double-DQ.
D-Generation X vs. The Spirit Squad
During the July 15, 2006 edition of SNME, D-Generation X (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) were firmly in the bad books of Mr. McMahon, who sent DX into battle against The Spirit Squad (male cheerleaders Kenny, Mikey, Johnny, Nicky and Mitch) in a handicap elimination match, which DX won fairly easily.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Genius
Arguably the biggest upset in Saturday Night's Main Event history, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan took on The Genius, at best a preliminary wrestler and at the time the manager of Mr. Perfect. Naturally, Perfect got involved and interfered on his manager's behalf, giving Genius the count-out win over Hogan.
Hulk Hogan & The Junkyard Dog vs. Terry & Hoss Funk
Fresh off his win at WrestleMania II, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan helped out his friend Junkyard Dog against JYD's chief rivals The Funk Brothers. Hogan and JYD had The Haiti Kid in the corner, while The Funks had Jimmy Hart and their "brother" Jimmy Jack Funk. The babyfaces reigned supreme.
Brutus Beefcake vs. Outlaw Ron Bass
Hair vs Hair matches have been quite rare in WWE, although the January 7, 1989 episode featured one between Brutus The Barber Beefcake and Outlaw Ron Bass. Trying to get a measure of revenge for Bass ambushing him the previous summer, Beefcake got his revenge by defeating the Texan and shaving him bald!
The British Bulldogs vs. The Hart Foundation
In a rematch of sorts from their WrestleMania III bout, The British Bulldogs (with Tito Santana in their corner) battled Champions The Hart Foundation (with Danny Davis in theirs) on May 7, 1989. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart retained their belts in this two-out-of-three falls match on a disqualification.
Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. Perfect
Fresh off dropping his WWF World Title, Hulk Hogan wanted to prove that he was still a top competitor in the WWF. In this April 28, 1990 match, Hogan sought revenge against Perfect for his interference in the match with The Genius. Ultimately, Hogan won the match and continued on his comeback tour.
The Junkyard Dog vs. Terry Funk
One of Terry Funk's first big WWF matches aired on November 2, 1985, when he took on the popular Junkyard Dog. While the match would eventually turn into a bitter rivalry between the two, this was where the bad blood largely began. In the end, Funk and manager Jimmy Hart managed to defeat JYD.
John Cena & Triple H vs. Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio & Kurt Angle
An extremely unusual match kicked off the "modern" era of SNME in 2006, as WrestleMania XXII opponents John Cena and Triple H were forced to team up, against Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle, who would have their own triple threat match at WrestleMania.
Randy Savage vs. Jake The Snake Roberts
Randy Savage and Jake The Snake Roberts battled on SNME at two very different times in their careers. On November 29, 1986, both men were heels and battled to a double-disqualification. Then on February 8, 1992, Macho Man had recently come out of retirement, and defeated Roberts in this grudge match.
Jeff Hardy vs. Edge
Literally the last match ever seen on Saturday's Night Main Event, Jeff Hardy battled Edge on the August 2, 2008 episode. While both SmackDown wrestlers put on a tremendous showing, playing off their past battles, it was the interference by MVP that led to Jeff Hardy getting speared by Edge and pinned.
The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team
On March 1, 1986, WWF Tag Team Champions The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) turned back the challenge of The British Bulldogs. Then on October 4, 1986, Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid (now the tag champions) retained against The Dream Team in a best two-out-of-three falls match.
The Mega Power vs. The Twin Towers
On February 3, 1989, it was the final stand for Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage as The Mega Powers, as their alliance crumbled over Savage's jealousy of Hogan and his manager Elizabeth. The Mega Powers won the match against Big Boss Man and Akeem, but this was definitely more about the angle.
Randy Savage vs. The Million Dollar Man
Leading up to the WrestleMania IV title tournament, Ted DiBiase tested his mettle against Randy Savage. While The Million Dollar Man would defeat Macho Man by countout, Savage would get the last laugh -- pinning DiBiase a few weeks later to capture the WWF World Title.
Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage
While Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage didn't face each other on SNME, they did battle on The Main Event on February 23, 1990. The match was special because boxing champion James Buster Douglas was the special guest referee.... initially it was going to be Mike Tyson!
The Rockers vs. The Brain Busters
On March 11, 1989, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty tangled with The Brain Busters in a fast-paced match that ended in a double-countout. The SNME rematch happened on November 25, 1989 in a two-out-of-three falls bout where The Rockers won and Bobby Heenan fired Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.
Randy Savage vs. Bret Hart
When Randy Savage battled Bret Hart on November 28, 1987, Macho Man was a newly-installed babyface and Hart a tag team specialist in Jimmy Hart's stable. By repeatedly working over Savage's ankle in this 12-minute match, it was one of the better technical matches either man had, and helped establish Hart as a superstar.
Randy Savage vs. The Honky Tonk Man
The first match between Randy Savage and The Honky Tonk Man aired on October 3, 1987, with Honky Tonk knocking out Macho Man out with a guitar and Hulk Hogan famously coming to his aid. The rematch was on The Main Event on February 5, 1988, with Savage once again challenging for Honky Tonk's Intercontinental Title and winning the match by countout.... but not the gold.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Andre The Giant
On November 25, 1989, The Ultimate Warrior defended his Intercontinental Championship against Andre The Giant. Despite giving up a significant height and weight advantage, The Warrior managed to dominate the 7"4 Andre, until his manager Bobby Heenan interfered for Andre, causing a disqualification loss.
Tito Santana vs. The Red Rooster
This January 7, 1989 match was interesting for several reasons. The Red Rooster's manager Bobby Heenan had a mic clipped to him, so you could hear him berating his client the entire match. When Tito Santana won, Heenan began yelling at The Rooster, leading to Rooster rebelling and firing The Brain as a result.
Ricky Steamboat & The Junkyard Dog vs. Magnificent Muraco & Mr. Fuji
A match on the January 4, 1986 Saturday Night's Main Event featured a continuation from the previous episode. After being attacked by both Magnificent Muraco and his manager Mr. Fuji, Ricky Steamboat recruited his good friend The Junkyard Dog to compete in a tag team.
The British Bulldogs vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid) defended the WWF World Tag Team Titles on the May 3, 1986 episode of SNME in a two-out-of-three falls match against The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. The Bulldogs ended up winning.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Ravishing Rick Rude
Hacksaw Jim Duggan had recently become the WWF's "King" when he took on Intercontinental Champion Ravishing Rick Rude on May 27, 1989. While Duggan came close to winning the championship, he had to contend with not only Bobby Heenan and Haku.
Jake The Snake Roberts vs. Kamala
Jake The Snake Roberts had only recently turned face when he took on Kamala on May 2, 1987. Kamala won the match in fairly short order thanks to his longtime handler Kim Chee. However, Kim Chee then took off his mask and pith hat to reveal he was The Honky Tonk Man, Roberts' rival at the time.
Randy Savage & The Ultimate Warrior vs. Money Inc.
In the last SNME of the 1990s, WWF World Champion Randy Savage teamed with former rival The Ultimate Warrior to take on WWF Tag Team Champions Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster). While "The Ultimate Maniacs" won the bout, it was via countout.
Hulk Hogan vs. Hercules
When WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan battled perennial SNME competitor Hercules on November 29, 1986, few expected the Bobby Heenan Family member to have much effect on the champion. However, it appeared as though as Hogan submitted to Herc's backbreaker... but Hogan rallied won the contest.
Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Paul Orndorff
After the first WrestleMania was in the record books, former allies Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff were definitely at odds. During their October 5, 1985 battle, they couldn't wait to tear into each other, and even ended up both going over the top rope together, ending the match in a double countout.
The British Bulldog vs. Shawn Michaels
The final title change in SNME history happened on November 14, 1992, when Shawn Michaels challenged The British Bulldog, who had only recently captured the Intercontinental title. After a great back-and-forth battle, Michaels captured the gold, his first singles championship as part of a Hall of Fame career.
Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer & Cousin Luke vs. Roddy Piper, Bob Orton & Jesse Ventura
The January 4, 1986 edition of SNME saw The Hillbillies team up to take on the hated trio of Rowdy Roddy Piper, his bodyguard Bob Orton and Jesse The Body Ventura. While the heels ultimately triumphed, it was a great grudge between warring factions.
Shawn Michaels vs. Shane McMahon
Believe it or not, this March 18, 2006 match between Shawn Michaels and Shane McMahon is the longest recorded bout in SNME history! Michaels was looking for revenge, as Shane O'Mac's father (Vince McMahon) was going to face him at WrestleMania. Thanks to interference by "pops", HBK lost the bout.
Brutus Beefcake vs. Randy Savage
When Randy Savage competed on the July 29, 1989 episode of SNME, he had recently lost his WWF World Title and was on the warpath. Brutus Beefcake had made the mistake of mocking Savage's manager "Scary" Sherri, so the two of them went after Beefcake, allowing The Barber to win by disqualification.
Demolition vs. The Brain Busters
This rivalry was actually carried out during a pair of Saturday Night's Main Event episodes. In the first match on May 27, 1989, Ax and Smash were disqualified. Then, in a two-out-of-three falls match on July 29, 1989, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard won the match and the WWF Tag Team titles.
Bret Hart vs. The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase
On April 27, 1991, Bret Hart's star was definitely on the rise as a singles competitor, while Ted DiBiase's was on its way down. The two had a nearly 10-minute technical classic, with Hart avoiding interference by The Million Dollar Man's manager Sensational Sherri, leading to a double-countout.
Hulk Hogan vs. The King Harley Race
One month removed from losing his WWF World Title for the first time, Hulk Hogan was out for revenge when he battled The King Harley Race on March 12, 1988. Hogan used a more aggressive style than normal, breaking several rules, and Race even suffered a career-ending injury when he crashed through a ringside table.
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation
When Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty battled Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart on April 28, 1990, both teams were babyfaces. A scientific battle soon gave way to more of a brawl, aided by the fact that Demolition (also a face team) came to ringside, leading to a double-disqualification with all six men brawling in the ring.
Hulk Hogan vs. Big Boss Man
This May 27, 1989 match is largely known for one spot: Hulk Hogan superplexing the 300-pound plus Big Boss Man off the top of the cage. Yet beyond that, it was a classic Hulk Hogan WWF World Title defense, with Hogan climbing over the top of the cage to win.
20-Man Battle Royal
There were two battle royals in SNME history. The more famous one aired March 14, 1987, with Hercules winning the bout in an upset and also showing the very first Hulk Hogan-Andre The Giant confrontation. Then on April 27, 1991, Mr. Perfect won in a match that also featured Hogan, Earthquake and Tugboat.
Hulk Hogan vs. Terry Funk
Terry Funk was the first challenger to Hulk Hogan's WWF Title in 1986 (this episode airing on January 4) and was chosen behind the scenes because he would make Hogan look good. With Jimmy Hart in Funk's corner and Junkyard Dog in Hogan's, the Hulkster retained his title in a rowdy match.
Tito Santana vs. Mr. Perfect
Speaking of tournaments, Mr. Perfect defeated Tito Santana in one to capture the Intercontinental Championship in mid-1990. The SNME rematch came on July 28, 1990, with Perfect giving Santana his rematch. It was a tremendous back-and-forth match, which Perfect won.
John Cena vs. Edge
The John Cena-Edge rivalry, one of the most intense in recent memory, made a stop on Saturday Night's Main Event on July 15, 2006. Cena was defending his WWE Championship here (the two had traded the belt back and forth) and managed to defeat The Rated R Superstar by disqualification in a great bout.
Ricky The Dragon Steamboat vs. Jake The Snake Roberts
Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts had two matches on SNME: the first was a no-contest on May 3, 1986, with The Snake DDT'ing The Dragon on the concrete floor. The second was October 4, 1986; a Snakepit Match where The Dragon won, ending their great rivalry.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant
This match was featured on The Main Event on February 5, 1988 and helped establish a ratings record at the time. The finish featured Andre The Giant pinning Hulk Hogan's shoulders to the mat (but not for three seconds), Andre selling the WWF World Title to Ted DiBiase, and shenanigans by twin Hebner referees.
Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff
The hottest feud of 1986 was featured on two consecutive episodes of Saturday Night's Main Event. Paul Orndorff recently turned on Hulk Hogan, and challenged The Hulkster for his WWF World Championship on October 4, 1986. Hogan won by disqualification. On November 29, 1986, they had a Steel Cage rematch, where both men escaped the cage at the exact same time, leading to a re-start which The Hulkster won.