Top Ten WrestleMania Moments Off All Time
Wrestlemania turns 31 this year and it is impossible to narrow down just 10 moments to call the best, but I will be trying my best!
With the WWE Network now it is so easy to re-live all the good (Savage v Steamboat-WM III), the bad (Giant Gonzalez-WMIX), and ugly (JR in a toga – WMIX). So I hope this article will stir some WWE nostalgia in you.
10. Champion v Champion – Ultimate Warrior v Hulk Hogan (Wrestlemania VI)
After his debut in 1987 the Ultimate Warrior quickly became a household name. He had an intensity that had never been seen before in a WWE ring, all an extension of his powerful sprint to the ring and shaking of the ring ropes. Hulk Hogan is the biggest star the business has ever seen but in 1990 at the Toronto Skydome, the WWE decided it was Warrior’s time.
This was the first time in Wrestlemania we would have a Face V Face match up with the crowd split. An additional twist was that Warrior was the IC Champion so we had a Champion v Champion scenario. I know the NFL analogy is used a lot but it couldn’t be more apt here, it really felt like a battle of the best.
It was a tough match to book with both men such strong faces and limited in ring styles, but it came off well and the missed leg drop finish was well done. Warrior face paint was gone by the end and we had the great image of him holding both titles aloft as fireworks went off.
9. The End for The Man – Ric Flair v Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XXIV)
Ric Flair will always be ‘the man’. He is your favourite wrestler’s favourite wrestler. Probably only Hulk Hogan can claim to have made as much of an impact in both WWE and WCW.
Ric Flair’s final run was quite ironic in some ways. He was 59 and it was time for WWE to push younger talent, but Flair proved he was still one of the most interesting talents on the roster with his IC Title run and ‘career-threatening’ matches run that respawn his career.
Flair was inducted to the WWE Hall Of Fame the night before, when he made that slow walk to the ring in, Florida. It was no secret this would be his last match. The match itself was excellent, it was well paced with counters and spots designed to highlight the wrestling ability of both men. The emotional element of the match was particularly powerful and the iconic moment came in the finish when Shawn paused before a second Sweet Chin Music and uttered a tearful “I’m Sorry, I Love you”. Old Yeller eat your heart out.
8. McMahon 3:16 – Stone Cold v The Rock (Wrestlemania XVII)
This was the spiritual successor to Warrior vs Hogan and HBK vs Bret Hart, the two biggest stars in the company going head to head. After coming back from injury Stone Cold had worked his way back into the title picture, there was a great storyline here of how The Rock had risen to fame in his absence. Stone Cold delivered some great promos, especially a sit down interview with JR, to put over how much he needed to get the title back. He had to win. The injection of his wife Debra into the buildup took away from it for me, but that was only a minor diversion.
The match was a modern day classic, great back and forth drama and false finishes. I would argue that this was the match that made kicking out of finishers a big match requirement all the way to today. We also saw Rock use the Stunner and Stone Cold use the Rock Bottom, again a great twist that was fresh and unique at the time in WWE.
To this day Stone Cold regrets the finish, but it will always be a surreal moment when Stone Cold’s desperation to get back to the top of the mountain saw him align himself with his nemesis Vince McMahon.
7. The Splash from the Ladder – Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon (Wrestlemania X)
Bret Hart brought the ladder match to the WWE but it is doubtful even he could have executed it as well as Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon did at WM X. With a great storyline of Razor winning Shawn’s vacated IC Title and then Shawn returning from suspension to claim he was still the IC Champion, the stage was set for the Ladder match to determine an Undisputed IC Champion.
The match was brilliantly paced and two of the best workers in the history of the business made it a breath of fresh air for fans. Razor won the match but Shawn Michaels put a marker down as to why he would later become Mr Wrestlemania. That can be best emphasized when Shawn climbed the ladder and performed a splash on to Razor, with camera flashes firing off in the background, it is a moment that still gets the slo-mo treatment today.
6. Thank You Shawn – Shawn Michaels v Undertaker (Wrestlemania XXVI)
Occasionally the WWE get things so unbelievably right that you wonder why they can’t do it more often. From a great storyline starting at the Slammys and then in-ring failures, the slow build was fantastic showing Shawn struggling to find purpose in his career.
The Royal Rumble was well done, with HBK a man so hell bent on winning so he could challenge Undertaker for his World Title that he eliminated his best friend Triple H. His elimination at the hands of old rival Batista was brilliantly executed with HBK clawing for the ropes. HBK then showing up at the end of Elimination Chamber to cost Undertaker the title was also well done and set up the rematch well. The career twist added great intrigue, HBK was still one of the top performers on the card.
At WM XXVI, HBK and Taker went on last, a measure of the respect for what was at steak – The Streak and HBK’s career. The match for me was on par with XXV, and somewhat reminiscent of HBK ending Flair’s career at WM XXIV in the finish with a defiant HBK slapping Taker before a vicious spike Tombstone. The final image of HBK in the ring waving goodbye to the crowd closing WM XXVI was the kind of goodbye every wrestler could only dream of, and why we won’t see HBK wrestle again.
5. The Double Turn – Bret Hart v Stone Cold (Wrestlemania XIII)
This moment was the birth of a legend. Stone Cold was already a bad ass and the fans had been progressively cheering him more and more. On the flip side Bret Hart had returned from a hiatus filming a TV show called ‘Lonesome Dove’ and his popularity wasn’t where it had been a few years earlier. In one of the better more drawn-out heel turns he slowly developed a more aggressive streak and became increasingly vocal against the powers that be in the WWE.
After being screwed out of a Royal Rumble win by Stone Cold, the two met in a grudge match at Wrestlemania. The match was excellent, both men’s outstanding work rate coupled with intensity and aggression of the new Hitman matched against that of Stone Cold. There are actually two moments in this match that stick in the mind. The first was the figure four around the ring post, a brutal move that was innovative and looked fantastic.
The second was the finish, a bloody Stone Cold refusing to tap out to the Sharpshooter and passing out due to the pain.
4. Every Goat Has It’s Day – Daniel Bryan v Randy Orton v Batista (Wrestlemania XXX)
After the shock and disbelief of Brock breaking Undertaker’s streak the crowd was pretty flat. The show needed a pick me up in a big way, and boy did we get it. Earlier in the night Daniel Bryan had a match with Triple H that was fantastic in it’s own right. Finally the fans get what they want with Daniel Bryan in the main event, I mentioned before how WWE gets things unbelievably right sometimes, well this was one of those times but it was so close to not being. It’s worrying to think there were people in the company that believed Randy Orton v Batista was what people wanted to see and should headline the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania. Somehow though they stumbled on the Daniel Bryan Yes Movement story that ended up panning out as a great arc from Summerslam 2013 to WM XXX.
The match was surprisingly good, Bryan was red hot and Orton and Batista were also on the top of their game. The final pictures of the confetti falling and the packed Mercedes-Benz Superdome raising their arms YES!-ing along with Daniel Bryan the feelgood moment needed after the end of The Streak in such shocking fashion, and really it saved the show.
3. Icon v Icon – Hollywood Hogan v The Rock (Wrestlemania XVIII)
There are a lot of dream matches in the WWE that we will never see, Hogan v Rock is one of the few that we saw and lived up to all of the hype. A match like this is why I always believe that you don’t need a technical masterclass for a great match; it just needs to tell a story that pulls you in.
Nobody ever really foresaw the reaction Hogan would get in Toronto, the last time he was in the SkyDome with the WWE he was passing the torch to Warrior at WM VI. Hogan and Rock showed why they are two of the best ever by really milking the crowd reaction and making it an epic face to face moment that we never thought we would see.
2. Bodyslam heard around the world – Hulk Hogan v Andre the Giant (Wrestlemania III)
Hogan and Andre were the David and Goliath of its time, a testament to the enormity of Andre! Bobby Heenan, for me the best to ever speak on a WWE mic, was brilliant in the buildup poking at Hogan and Andre has been unbeaten for 15 years. Both were cultural icons, Hogan had a cameo in Rocky III as ‘Thunderlips’ in 1982 that had seen his star rise, but Andre was still deemed the biggest star in the WWE when these two clashed at WM III.
Over 93,000 people (still a WWE record to this day) packed into the Pontiac Silverdome to witness Hulk Hogan lift the 520 pound Andre the Giant and powerslam him. This feat of strength is iconic of the 80s wrestling boom, and a leg drop later Hogan propelled himself into being arguably the biggest name in the whole of sports and entertainment.
1. Eat, Sleep, Conquer The Streak – Brock Lesnar v The Undertaker (Wrestlemania XXX)
This is probably sacrilege; it was a moment that has sparked nothing but anger from the internet wrestling community. Why did The Streak have to be broken? Why Brock Lesnar? Why in such a below par match when compared to Undertaker’s previous bouts with CM Punk, Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
However you felt after the event is one thing, but how you felt at the time was a moment that we may never see again in the WWE. When the referee’s hand dropped for the three count it was maybe the most shocking moment in the history of the WWE, everyone was looking around – was it a fast count, a mistake? Is it a screwjob? It just didn’t make sense. Those who were around at the time compare it when Bruno Sammartino finally lost the WWWF after a 7 year reign, in both cases the silence was deafening.
Everyone has an opinion on how The Streak should have ended, if at all, and it wasn’t a classic WWE feelgood moment but for me that is what makes it so special. In the internet era we know everything almost before it has happened, Taker v Brock had little buildup and most of the talk was around a potential Sting v Taker showdown at WM XXXI, so what happened at WM XXX was all the more shocking.
End of an Era – Undertaker v Triple H (Wrestlemania XXVIII)
For some reason the WWE did not want to acknowledge WM XVII when Undertaker beat Triple H in what was a great match, they instead focused on WM XXVII when the two went to war again with Undertaker winning in unconvincing fashion and for the first time showing a vulnerable side to the character.
WM XXVIII was built around redemption for Undertaker, a Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. The dynamic between HBK and Triple H added some great build up to this match, with HBK claiming Triple H could not beat the Deadman.
This was another hard hitting affair, with some great false finishes until ultimately Undertaker picked up the win with the Tombstone. The match was billed as the ‘end of an era’, a nod to the end of the Attitude era with Triple H and Undertaker the last two survivors. It was a fitting finish and in contrast to WM XXVII it was Triple H who would needed to be helped to the back. The embrace alongside HBK and Undertaker at the top of the ramp was a great final marker in arguably the greatest era in the WWE.