The ending of any show can make or break the entire show, and that goes without saying in professional wrestling. The live crowd creates an enormous amount of pressure on a pay-per-view to create a final moment that will stick in the minds of viewers for generations, and no pressure is felt more than in the final moments of WrestleMania.
WrestleMania, the biggest pay-per-view of WWE’s calendar and in the western professional wrestling world, is the time when WWE pulls out all the stops to produce an over the top, grandiose spectacle of wrestling, pageantry, and entertainment. But if the ending of that show flops, the negativity will be felt for a long time.
Thankfully, however, the ending of WrestleMania has more often than not been a moment which has gone down in history as an iconic, history making finale which makes fans giddy with excitement or gives them goosebumps when looking back on it.
In no particular order, let’s look back on ten of the most iconic closing moments in WrestleMania history.
1. The Heist of The Century – WrestleMania 31
The main event of WrestleMania 31 was an interesting one, to say the least. The WWE Universe knew that Roman Reigns was being pushed to be the next face of the company to their dismay, and as the then WWE Champion Brock Lesnar had reportedly not signed a new WWE contract, it looked all but set in stone that Reigns was walking out of ‘Mania as champion.
However, shortly before WrestleMania, Brock signed a contract with WWE so the match grew even more complex as the fans were now divided between “Please, not Brock!” and “Please, not Roman!”. It seemed like whoever won the championship a large group of viewers would walk out of WrestleMania disappointed.
The match itself was a really good main event, Lesnar and Reigns taking each other to hell and back, dishing out spears and F5s like there was no tomorrow. The crowd became unglued as the music of “The Architect” Seth Rollins hit and Rollins, who was defeated by Randy Orton earlier that night, sprinted to the ring, Money in the Bank briefcase in hand. Rollins was cashing in.
Delivering Curb Stomps to both Lesnar and his former Shield brother Reigns, Rollins walked out of WrestleMania as WWE Champion to an uproarious reaction from the crowd. Standing proud at the top of the entrance ramp, title in hand, Rollins performed the “heist of the century”, saving the WWE Universe from two possible fates they didn’t want.
2. The Wolverine and Latino Heat – WrestleMania XX
WrestleMania XX had an absolutely stacked card, with names such as John Cena, The Undertaker, and Randy Orton all appearing. However, the show was stolen by the two main event title matches: Kurt Angle vs Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship, and the triple threat between Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Benoit for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Both matches are considered two of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history by both fans and critics alike, with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarding the matches 4 stars and 4.75 stars respectively. The two matches are textbook examples of technical and high flying wrestling styles with Benoit, Guerrero, Angle, Triple H, and Michaels being some of the greatest of all time in those two schools of wrestling.
Guerrero won the WWE Championship via sneaky tactics, loosening his boot so when Angle slapped on his patented Ankle Lock, he slipped out with ease. Whereas Benoit had an uphill battle against two veterans of the WWE in Triple H and Shawn Michaels, but the rivalry between Michaels and Helmsley would be the opener for Benoit to wrap Triple H up in the Crossface for the win, the first WrestleMania main event won by submission.
As fantastic as the two matches are, it was the post-match incident that went down in history. In an already emotional moment which saw Benoit defeat the odds, it became even more emotional as real life best friend Eddie Guerrero came out to the ring to congratulate Benoit, embracing him in the ring as confetti rained down.
The two friends left WCW and debuted in WWE in 2000, and finally, four years later, they had both reached the mountain top. However, this moment of beauty and real emotion would become harrowing as just a year later Guerrero would pass away at just 38 years old, followed by Benoit in 2007. Due to the circumstances surrounding Benoit’s passing, the WWE will never bring up this moment again, but it remains one of the most emotional endings of WrestleMania in history.
3. The Miracle on Bourbon Street – WrestleMania XXX
Daniel Bryan is undoubtedly one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. His natural charisma and incredible ability have been driving forces behind his WWE run.
The main event of WrestleMania 30 in 2014 was the culmination of a storyline that ran from SummerSlam 2013 when Bryan defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship, only for special referee Triple H to turn on him in order for Randy Orton to successfully cash in his Money in the Bank Contract. This began the Bryan vs The Authority feud as Helmsley claimed it was a “business decision” to destroy Bryan’s title shot and endorse Orton as the next “face of WWE”.
The next few months saw Bryan sabotaged at every angle in his attempt to regain the title. At Clash of Champions, he managed to defeat Orton and regain the championship, only for the decision to be reversed on RAW following the show by Triple H who vacated the championship, citing that referee Scott Armstrong had fast counted the pin. At Battleground, Orton vs Bryan took place for the vacant championship only for the match to end in a no contest when Big Show, who The Authority attempted to manipulate, attacked both competitors.
This went on for months until Bryan could stand no more and he and his fans stormed the ring and “occupied” RAW, issuing an ultimatum to The Authority that they wouldn’t leave the ring until Bryan could face Triple H at WrestleMania 30. The stipulation? That if he won he would be inserted into the main event of Randy Orton vs Royal Rumble winner Batista, to which an irate Triple H agreed.
Bryan won that match against Triple H to open WrestleMania 30, and went on to face off the former multiple time world champions in the main event. Briefly, it looked as if Batista would win, but Bryan managed to lock in the Yes Lock for the win.
“It’s a miracle on Bourbon Street!” Michael Cole exclaimed as the crowd erupted into screams of joy as Bryan did the impossible, standing victorious over The Authority.
4. The Boyhood Dream Has Come True – WrestleMania XII
Vince McMahon delivered the line at WrestleMania XII which would go on to be one of the most notable pieces of commentary in history. Upon Michaels winning the WWF Championship, he would declare “the boyhood dream has come true!”
Much like Bryan, Shawn Michaels was one of the hottest talents the then WWF had in the early 1990s, again due to his natural charisma and incredible ring acumen. After winning the 1996 Royal Rumble, “The Heartbreak Kid” gained the opportunity to face off with the also popular, and perpetual rival, Bret Hart who was the WWF Champion. Ater defeating Owen Hart at In Your House 6 to keep his title shot, Michaels going to WrestleMania was sealed.
The match was a sixty minute Iron Man match, meaning that it lasted an hour and the two men fought to get as many pinfalls or submissions as possible, whoever scores the most points would walk out as champion.
This match went down to the wire with the two men being scoreless after an hour causing the match going to sudden death overtime, however with one Sweet Chin Music, Michaels dethroned “The Hitman” and begin his first WWF Championship reign.
The incredible match aside, it’s the acting by Michaels that makes this moment iconic. As soon as he gets the pinfall, he sits with his head in his hands, full of emotion, and stares in disbelief at the championship that he had desired for so long.
5. Stone Cold Shakes Hands With The Devil – WrestleMania X-7
Possibly the greatest WrestleMania of all time, X-7 saw Angle vs Benoit, the second ever tag team TLC match, and The Rock vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in a No Disqualification match.
The build up to this match was simple but incredible: The Rock had become the biggest name in the company while Austin was out with a neck injury, and when Austin returned, his sights were immediately set on regaining the top spot in the company. Austin would enter and win the 2001 Royal Rumble, cementing him in the main event of WrestleMania X-7 against The Rock. It was during this feud that Austin delivered one of the greatest promos in WWE history, stating: “I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything you can possibly imagine.”
The match rolls around and it’s everything fans wanted, both men begin laying the smackdown on each other, pulling no punches with attempts at Stunners and Rock Bottoms throughout. And then the unthinkable happens. Mr. McMahon makes his way to the ring, saves Austin from being pinned and hands Austin a chair which he uses to brutalise The Rock for the win.
Austin turned and looked directly at the man that had held him back for so long, and in front of 67,000 people in attendance, shook his hand. It was clear from the beginning that Austin was willing to do anything to walk out as champion. From the look on his face at the beginning to straight away attempting to use the belt as a weapon, the seeds were being sown to the heel turn later and it’s so cleverly done.
When the turn does happen, it’s sold wonderfully by Paul Heyman and Jim Ross on commentary. Both men cannot believe what they’re seeing with Ross screaming “Stone Cold is shaking hands with Satan himself!”. While the turn is looked back on with a mixed reaction, it still stands as possibly the best finish to a main event and WrestleMania as a whole.
6. Streak vs Career – WrestleMania XXVI
Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker gave wrestling fans two of the greatest matches of all time at WrestleMania 25 and 26, but in my opinion it’s the Streak vs Career match that main evented WrestleMania 26 that’s the better story.
Michaels couldn’t get over his loss the year before and tried in vain get back at The Undertaker, unsuccessfully entering the Royal Rumble and failing to earn a spot in the Elimination Chamber. It seemed that there was no way that Michaels could get to WrestleMania, to the point where he would out and out attack “The Deadman” on SmackDown, causing ‘Taker to challenge Michaels with the stipulation that if he lost, he would retire. Michaels accepted.
The match featured two huge draws and even bigger stakes than their previous encounter and boy did it deliver. Straight out the gate, the two men start hitting each other with their signature moves and taking the action outside the ring to an intensely passionate crowd.
Undertaker would deliver a tombstone to Michaels, who kicked out milliseconds before the referee counted to three, sending the crowd into a frenzy. ‘Taker begged for Michaels to stay down only for Michaels to defiantly draw his thumb across his throat, mocking “The Deadman” before a final tombstone sealed Michaels’ fate. That final shot of the match of Michaels mocking Taker goes above and beyond with its storytelling; showing that Michaels, even when defeated, has the willpower to carry on.
Taker and Michaels shook hands and embraced after the match, with Michaels getting to say farewell to the fans in attendance with commentary remarking that “this might be the greatest WrestleMania moment”, and they might well be correct.
7. Rest In Peace – WrestleMania 33
The match might not have been what anyone wanted, but it has to be said that as a “retirement match”, the final moments following Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker were perfectly done.
It’s true that very few of the WWE fanbase wanted this match as it was a dead certainty that Roman Reigns would become the second person to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania, the first being Brock Lesnar, and sure enough he did.
Reigns celebrated with an impressive fireworks display lighting up the Camping World Stadium. However, it was seeing The Undertaker taking off his hat, long coat, and gloves and leaving them in the centre of the ring before making his exit that left a hole in the fans hearts. Fans watched as a legend of over twenty years shed his character for the first time, embracing his wife Michelle McCool at ringside, before heading back up the entrance ramp.
An absolutely emotional ending which could have been more effective if it had actually been The Undertaker’s retirement.
8. The Ultimate Challenge – WrestleMania VI
Truly a WrestleMania carried by one match, and one match alone.
WrestleMania VI is not an exceptional show, with very little in the way of memorable matches with the exception of the main event and that Brutus Beefcake ended Mr. Perfect’s undefeated streak at this pay-per-view. However, it’s of course the main event that goes down in WrestleMania history.
The main event saw the WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan take on the then WWF Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior, in a first ever singles match between the two babyface behemoths.
The match is all of the pomp and circumstance that is to be expected of a Golden Era WWF match. Hogan hulks up, Hogan breaks out of the Bear Hug and finally, Warrior dodges the Leg Drop hitting the Splash to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship — it’s 1980s professional wrestling at its best.
Seeing Warrior lift both titles and share an embrace with Hogan is a major passing of the torch from one legend to another which ended quite an uninspired WrestleMania.
9. The Macho Champion – WrestleMania IV
WrestleMania IV was an interesting event, to say the least, an incredibly long affair which operated as a tournament for the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The final boiled down to Randy Savage vs “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase which lasted an incredibly short 9:27 minutes.
The match was not without interference as Andre the Giant, who was in the corner of DiBiase, tried to thwart Savage’s attempt to win the title. However, when the referee was distracted by Andre, Hulk Hogan got involved, attacking DiBiase with a chair and allowing Savage to hit an Elbow Drop to begin his first ever World Heavyweight Championship reign.
While an incredibly “Dusty finish”, the match led to the Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage feud the following year, the ending moment with Savage hoisting Miss Elizabeth onto his shoulder with her holding the WWF World Heavyweight Championship stands as one of the most symbolic final images in WrestleMania history.
10. The Man Comes Around – WrestleMania 35
God, what a messy build up this was. Becky Lynch won the Royal Rumble and chose to face RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania but she injured her knee and was written out of the match, being suspended for not allowing medical staff to examine her knee. This eventually led to Vince McMahon revealing Charlotte Flair as Rousey’s WrestleMania opponent instead.
That isn’t where the fun stops however, as Lynch would continue showing up on RAW and wreaking havoc upon Rousey and Flair until she was finally put into a match with Charlotte at Fastlane for a spot at WrestleMania. The match ended with Flair being disqualified as Ronda Rousey attacked Lynch, meaning Lynch won the match and regained her place in the Women’s Title match at WrestleMania. Oh, and shortly after Charlotte defeated Asuka for the SmackDown Women’s Championship and the match became a dual championship match.
The match itself was a good match impeded by a completely dead crowd who had sat through close to 7 hours of wrestling that night. However, seeing Lynch, the hottest female wrestler in WWE, defeat both Charlotte and Rousey was a wonderful moment. Lynch has grown so much over her tenure on the main roster and her gimmick is one of the best gimmicks on the main roster to date, and I for one cannot wait to see “The Man” come around once again.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.