The thing with it being a year away is anything could happen. Nexus came out of nowhere last summer and that lasted for almost 6 months. I am sure they have a feud or storyline like that sitting around waiting til the summer. They usually get some mileage out of Mania. Batista feuding with HBK then HBK with Jericho due to Flair's retirement is a great example.
The problem with this year's Mania is most of the great storylines you would get mileage from you have to wait a year to be told. I am sure Alberto will be champ by the time, the summer gets here and he will be feuding with Edge, Christian, Rey and Show-Kane, so Smackdown is covered. Raw will be more Cena vs. Miz much to everyone's chagrin. The real question is what is HHH going to do? Is he going after Miz, will he feud with Cena, he will jump to Smackdown? HHH is the new fly in the ointment. I am sure WWE is banking on HHH's presence to help them through the summer. The question becomes will he be heel or face and will the WWE fanbase get tired of him by the time he gets to Mania? My real hope is they just end Cole/Lawler at Extreme Rules, because I see that going til SummerSlam for no reason.
Michaels/Mankind from Mind Games was the first one to come to mind that, if you move it to some theoretical Wrestlemania, it instantly gets into the conversation for a true classic. I'd say that, the already-mentioned UT/HHH "Hell...IN A CELL!" match from Badd Blood and Hart/Austin from Survivor Series would get the highest profile increase if you add in a 'Mania legacy boost.
The Raw 10 Man from Dallas may be more of a counter example of something that couldn't work on a PPV and is, instead, kind of the apex of how to book and build to a weekly show's main event. I'm less sure of what kind of historical boost (if any) Austin's post-neck surgery suplex fests agaisnt Benoit and Angle would get if they happened on PPV. I think moving them to headline matches at a non-big four PPV would give said b-show a huge boost, but neither match was meant to be a Wrestlemania-type experience, though each proved that Austin could have had one with either guy.
HaLfTiMe HeAt would be rightly remembered as a top five ever Raw if it had happened on a Monday instead of during the Super Bowl.
For WCW, the obvious answer is that moving the Brothers In Paint (Sting/Vampiro) vs. Team Package (Luger/Flair) hotel pool match to Bash At the Beach 2000, where it thematically belonged (replacing the Vampiro vs. KISS Demon Graveyard match), would combine with the historical legacy of Savage/Luger/Sting vs. Outsiders/??? at BaTB '96 to push Bash at the Beach ahead of Starrcade as WCW's most historically important PPV series.
As far as larger-than-life matches outside of WrestleMania, Hart-Davey Boy at Summer Slam '92 is the biggest one I see.
Already mentioned, Austin-Undertaker at SummerSlam and Austin-Hart at Survivor Series were huge.
Bret vs Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam '91 will always be a huge match to me, but that could be personal preference.
Hell in a Cell '98, yeah.
I think the biggest issue, at least with the older PPVs, is that the SummerSlams, In Your Houses, etc. were always there to service the larger storylines in the buildup to WrestleMania (as I think it should be) so, for instance, Bret/Owen in the cage at SummerSlam '94 had a "business as usual" feel to it because they were feuding before the match and after the match. Nothing changed or was finished. Even though the match was great and did still feel pretty big.
So, when there's a Bret vs Davey Boy match that has a buildup, a huge presentation, and a definitive finish, it really feels like something magical without the WrestleMania magic surrounding it and that's kinda what's needed.
If Cena/Rock were to happen at SummerSlam, it'd be great and probably go along the lines of your HBK/Hogan and Austin/Undertakers, but if you really want to make it happen, it's the crown jewel of the WrestleMania crown. I think WrestleMania should always be about the biggest never-before-seen what-would-happen dream match and not about just throwing your Edges and Cenas together one more time because "Mania doesn't need it."
It does need it. It's WrestleMania. It's WrestleMania's "thing."
The Royal Rumble that Flair won has got to be on any non-Mania shortlist of WWE's most important matches.
"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." --- Bart Giamatti, on baseball
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