Every year, Maggle Cole and friends are subjected to Vince McMahon shouting in their ears, telling them to make this Wrestlemania feel like the biggest, most special and extravagant spectacle of all time. Although unfortunately not every Wrestlemania has managed to live up to these prophecies, some have in fact, as Davey Boy Smith would so eloquently put it, fallen on their fucking arse.
Not every Mania can stand the test of time. Some fade into the libraries of the WWE Network or are relegated to a mere few seconds of a video package. Not every Mania has a moment which fans and other spectators alike can look back on and remember exactly where they were and what they were thinking. But those that do become cherished in the passionate hearts and minds of those that live and die the wrestling industry.
Within this brief nostalgia trip, I’m going to share with you the ten best Wrestlemania moments, how they changed the way people look at wrestling and why I treasure them.
10. Hulk Hogan bodyslams Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania 3
Sure, looking back on this moment (and the match in general), there’s not much to get hyped over. I mean, how many times since 1987 have we seen the unstoppable force hoist the immovable object off their feet and back down onto the canvas? Even Erick Rowan got a bodyslam spot on Big Show during their epic feud.
Nevertheless, this one spot defines the ‘Wrestlemania moment’. It immortalised two titans of the wrestling world in front of a roaring 93,000 (probably) fans and is referenced even to this day. The story of the beaten and bruised warrior (not to be confused with an ultimate one) mustering the strength to take the weight of a Giant on his shoulders and leave him defeated on the ground is one personified through the bodyslam heard around the world.
9. ‘He who shall not be named’ wins the big one at Wrestlemania 20
Thinking back to the first time my parents ever let me stay up to watch Wrestlemania live on Sky Box Office, I remember a very special evening with my Dad. He’s never really been the biggest Wrestling fan, but he is the one I have to thank for introducing me to something that would become such a huge part of my life. Together we watched many a Wrestlemania moment together, but the first would come from Wrestlemania 20, when [REDACTED] and Eddie Guerrero were left embracing in each other in a shower of confetti, holding the two most prestigious championships in the Wrestling industry.
As was the status quo back in 2003/4, I absolutely despised Triple H and his reign of terror with the World Heavyweight Championship. Not only that, but I loved a good underdog story and seeing KrispinWah wrench back with the Crippler Crossface made me feel an excitement that I’ve very rarely experienced since. Knowing that the bloodied champion had no other choice but to tap and relinquish the title to the challenger was a victory for us all and was made even better by Jim Ross’ cracking voice screaming that “IT’S OVER! CHRIS BENOIT (there I said it) HAS DONE IT!” Even my Dad loved it, seeing two of the “WCW boys” he used to occasionally follow celebrating together after the match.
Arguably WWE have done a good job at erasing this Mania moment from the history books by re-creating it through Daniel Bryan’s rise to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship ten years later. And even though that is to be considered a fantastic episode of Wrestlemania history, it pales in comparison to Madison Square Garden erupting for Benoit and Eddie.
8. Seth Rollins cashes in at Wrestlemania 31
Most of us saw it coming, but damn it was still so good. Aside from Edge, Seth Rollins has been the most memorable Money in the Bank winner of all time and his cash-in on Reigns and Lesnar during the main event of Wrestlemania 31 only certified that fact.
Cash-in’s have slowly become a little tedious in my eyes and have lost the magic of spontaneous and dramatic change to the status quo of the main event scene. But Seth managed to break through that monotony to forge his Wrestlemania moment in front of thousands of screaming fans, some overcome by the joy of their Internet darling holding the belt, others just glad that Roman Reigns didn’t end the show with the title.
I was sat amongst a small group of fans in a local pub which happened to be hosting a Wrestling themed night for the event. Never had I gone from being so exhausted at 4am after an evening of drinking to being so hyped. This moment kickstarted a ‘changing of the guard’, from the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton, to Seth Rollins and his Shield cohorts.
7. TLC 2 at Wrestlemania 17
Admittedly, at first I didn’t really see this as a big deal. Growing up with the more risque/hardcore style of wrestling, seeing a few table/ladder spots didn’t really impress me as much as it should have. Looking back on it now, however, it attests to being one of the most exciting tag-team matches in Wrestlemania history. Throwing the likes of The Hardys, The Dudleys and Edge and Christian in the mix, there’s naturally going to be magic. But everything that took place within this relatively short match flowed together perfectly with every ridiculously dangerous bump being more thrilling than the last.
Most people would recall Edge spearing a defenceless Jeff Hardy from half way up a ladder, whilst Jeff clinged onto the titles high above the ring. Hearing stories of how Edge was pretty much left concussed after that moment only makes it more amazing. The crowd were eating up every second of this match. If I were to ever introduce a new fan to the more extreme side of the WWE, then this would be one of the first seminars. The pure chaos makes for one of the most fun Wrestlemania moments of all time and ushered in the love and appreciation for tag team wrestling and daredevil lucha…things.
6. Randy Savage ‘retires’ at Wrestlemania 7
The Ultimate Warrior and The Macho Man are probably the two most colourful and vibrant characters from the early 90’s outside of Hulkamania. Naturally, their paths eventually crossed going into Wrestlemania 7, with somewhat of a lackluster feud that was made a marvel by their eccentric personalities. The match itself was fairly straightforward, as you’d expect from anything featuring The Ultimate Warrior, but it was the post match shenanigans that really made this moment excel.
Wrestling and romance have always seemed to come hand in hand, with 90% of all love interests being as successful as Goldberg is at being a threat to Brock Lesnar. However, there has always been one triumphant relationship that captured the hearts of many fans: Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, which had been on a rocky road post-feud with Hogan (as all good relationships should end). After Savage succumbed to the power of the blood-red moon or something, thus losing his career as an active competitor for WWE, his valet Sensational Sherri began to lay into him and emasculate him in front of the fierce Los Angeles crowd. It was then that Miss Elizabeth jumped the rail and defended Savage, proving that their love was stronger than any genetic jackhammer ever could be.
Members of the audience were quite literally in tears at this gesture and what followed was actually pretty ‘aww worthy’ by WWE standards. Savage ended his night with Elizabeth on his shoulder once again, the true winner as he walked off into the sunset. Of course this was until he returned as a colour commentator, then again for their Summerslam wedding, and again for his feud with Jake Roberts and Ric Flair but hey, who’s counting, right? Despite the lack of continuity, this Wrestlemania moment stands as an incredibly well told and performed story that stands as one of my favourite moments from that era.
5. Ric Flair ‘retires’ at Wrestlemania 24
Continuing with the theme of retirements, Ric Flair gave it a go at Mania 24 in a match against The Heartbreak Kid. You really have to look beyond the actual match itself, which pales in comparison to what these two could have achieved in their prime, and instead see the absolute pinnacle of story-telling that came from this ‘retirement’. Shawn Michaels, being a huge fan of Ric Flair whilst breaking into the business himself, had been begging to have a crack at Naitch on the grandest stage. With these two men being parallels to one another in terms of showmanship and wrestling ability, it was a natural pairing for his final match.
Flair had been defending his right to compete against a variety of younger talent over the course of several months. Names such as Mr.Kennedy and MVP sought to rid the wrestling world of space mountain, but failed miserably. That momentum allowed Ric to give HBK his absolute best at Mania 24, pushing Shawn to his limits and bringing out a few incredible moments along the way. But it wasn’t quite enough, as he drags himself back to his feet with his fists clenched and tears streaming, Shawn prepared in the corner to deliver his final blow: “I’m sorry, I love you”.
Truly remarkable. Without that one moment, this match would have been lost amongst the Taker/Bundy’s and Kane/Khali’s. Just because you throw a marquee name into the match doesn’t make it an instant classic. But the pure emotion that this invoked really did deserve the moniker of being a Wrestlemania moment.
This was until a year later where Ric Flair feuded with Chris Jericho and then went to TNA to feud with Hogan. but who’s counting, right?
4. Icon vs Icon at Wrestlemania 18
This could have been the epic conclusion to the Invasion angle – oh what could have been. This really was the first time that two figureheads of WWE’s mount rushmore collided on such a magnitude, fantasy warfare merging with reality. Not only was it the flag bearers for their respective brands (WWF and WCW) but also their generations. This was The Rock vs Hollywood Hogan. Watching this back, you can’t help but feel the hype surrounding this event. Despite what you make of Hogan and his politics backstage, you can’t deny that he and The Rock managed to create one of the most awe-inspiring Wrestlemania moments from that end of the 00’s.
Granted that the match itself wasn’t quite a clash of the gods, but it carried itself through as a spectacle and set the standard for what inter-generational dream matches should be. You can see the similarities between that match and the Rock/Cena series from Mania’s 28 and 29 and
slightly more refined version with Triple H and Sting at 31. The post match shenanigans are fairly predictable by today’s standards, but the handshake between the two after the 3 count as well as the team-up against the nWo were both moments for the fanboys and girls. There’s a part of me that still feels sorry for Triple H and Chris Jericho, who followed this match with the championship main event which in comparison seemed mediocre to the electricity generated by the previous bout.
If there was ever a stage for encounters such as this, it’s Wrestlemania.
3. Austin turns heel at Wrestlemania 17
It seems almost like a knee-jerk reaction now for everyone’s quick-fix solution to poor booking – the heel turn. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I personally find it hard to see a genuinely well-written heel turn. Most would look to the fairly recent turn of Seth Rollins against his two Shield partners, but even that would be considered lackluster in comparison to the strategically timed turn of Steve Austin. It would be wrong to ever really label him as a white-meat babyface. In fact he would be better seen as the first ‘tweener’, a la Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. But this heel turn would go down in history as one of the most shocking Wrestlemania moments of all time.
The set-up being the second Wrestlemania match between The Rock and Steve Austin for the WWF Championship, in a no disqualification match on Austin’s home turf. Of course this meant that he was as over, so very over, and laid the foundations for him to dupe everyone, go against his principles and side with the menacing Mr. McMahon, who he had spent most of his career defying. If this were to happen here in 2016, it would be more likely that they would garner one of the biggest pops of the night from their hometown supporters. CM Punk taking the WWE title in Chicago rings a bell, but this one time, everyone despised Austin and the heel turn worked perfectly.
Not only did this Wrestlemania set the bar for future years, and arguably still maintains that high standard for what the Show of Shows should be, but this Wrestlemania moment remains one of my favourites to this day.
2. The Ultimate Challenge at Wrestlemania 6
As previously discussed, the bodyslam from Wrestlemania 3 was truly a fantastic moment in Wrestlemania history and generated the buzz that we’re still feeding off of today. However, there was never truly a match that created the Wrestlemania ‘big fight feel’ vibe until one fateful night in Canada. Hulk Hogan was still at the top of his run, ploughing through many of the biggest names throughout the years, including the likes of: Randy Savage, Ted Dibiase and of course Andre The Giant. However, never had he faced an opponent quite like The Ultimate Warrior.
Now we’ve already acknowledged that not every great moment has to come from a five star contest, or even a three star. Neither Hogan or the Warrior could really bring out the best in one another and the entire match just felt like one long rest hold. Nevertheless, everything surrounding the in-ring action culminated together to create an atmosphere like no other. This being one of the first widely received babyface/babyface matches, it truly split the crowd down the middle with half eating vitamins and the other half crashing rocket ships. It peaked with Warrior going over Hogan cleanly, which was an extremely rare moment in general as I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear. This was originally planned to be the passing of the torch from Hogan onto the newer model whilst he sets off to bigger ventures in Hollywood, which never really worked out in the long-term. But it did feel like a game-changing moment. Fans were able to see the human side of both titans as they embraced, holding both of the WWF’s top titles to a serenade of adoration from all in attendance.
A Wrestlemania moment requires a combination of gripping in-ring action, colourful personalities, innovation and atmosphere. Say what you will about Hogan and Warrior, but they nailed it. Shame to see them ruin it all in WCW.
1. “The Streak is over” at Wrestlemania 30
I still can’t really put into words the sheer amount of emotions I felt at that very moment. The one constant that came to define Wrestlemania in recent memory had come to a crushing halt at the hands of Brock Lesnar. Truly overwhelmed by a mixture of panic, confusion and doubt, it silenced the entire Superdome and the wrestling world beyond that. Again after an incredibly lackluster match due to an injury suffered in the opening stages, a Wrestlemania moment, or the Wrestlemania moment was born. Fans and followers of wrestling all had an opinion and all had a story to tell soon after.
The Undertaker will go down in history as the personification of Wrestlemania,. The grandeur and romance of the spectacle lives and breathes through the Deadman and his accomplishments within the undefeated streak. It was becoming almost an annual guarantee that whoever was selected to face him, in what was usually the match of the night, would go on to lose that match, to the point where 99% of fans would assume that Lesnar was going to become number 22 (which is almost absurd considering his matches today). It was the perfect night for it all to come to an end. The night where only the 1% would expect it, but even they would be left gawping, waiting for someone to restart the match or reverse the decision.
If Taker’s career had ended that night, with the thunderous applause and condolence from the thousands in attendance, then I believe that no future Wrestlemania moment would ever meet the standards of this. It truly captured everything that I love about the drama in wrestling.
Sasha Banks vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania 32
They’re women now, damn it.
A New Generation rises at Wrestlemania 21
Cena and Batista win their first major titles.
Austin passes out to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13
An incredible match with a bloody good finish.
Brother vs Brother (again) at Wrestlemania 20
The Deadman returns and squashes Kane.
So what Wrestlemania moments left you in awe? If you have any fond memories of feels and emotions then please share them below.