❉ Wrestlemania has provided us with countless unforgettable moments over the years. Here’s our Top 10!
Now, before we start, I am aware that for some people there will be a glaringly obvious omission from this list and to quickly address that I will only say this – everything about the end of the streak sucked and frankly it wouldn’t make it into my Top 10 Wrestlemania Moments.
So, with that unpleasantness out of the way, here we are. It’s that wonderful time of the year again when you wake up wearing your replica Championship belt, voice hoarse from screaming and body bruised from multiple failed powerbomb attempts by your friends (or is that just me?) N.B Don’t try that at home kids. Yes, it’s post-Wrestlemania Monday. And although other mental preparations take place it is sometimes difficult to fully ready yourself for the emotional rollercoaster of tears, gasps and laughs that is the biggest night in sports entertainment.
Wrestlemania has grown from an event in Madison Square Garden 32 years ago which was described by John Powell of Slam! Wrestling as average and “not the greatest” to a spectacle attended by over 100,000 people at Texas’ AT&T stadium last year. But since the very beginning, Wrestlemania has treated us to some of the most heart warming, often heart breaking, death defying and downright shocking moments to ever take place in a wrestling ring. So as a tribute to the most spectacular event in the sporting calendar (in my humble opinion, of course) let’s take a look at my top ten favourite Wrestlemania moments.
10. Deal with the Devil WM17
The Steve Austin/Vince McMahon rivalry was undoubtedly what helped bring new life to the WWE, rescuing it from the brink and helping the company to overshadow WCW and become the number one wrestling promotion. It was also the start of one of the most exciting periods in sports entertainment – the attitude era.
Steve Austin’s rebellious persona helped elevate him, and the company, to pop culture phenomenon status. Austin 3:16 t-shirts (I had the t-shirt, bed spread and curtains) adorned people of all ages and his catch phrases were heard in playgrounds, work places and pubs all over the world.
After a neck injury saw Austin on the side lines in 1999 that world watched as The Rock rose to a level once firmly reserved for the Texas rattlesnake. It seemed on his comeback that the only match that made sense would be a rematch between the two future icons. Steve Austin was desperate to regain his title and return to his throne, and at Wrestlemania 17, we saw just how desperate when the dastardly Vince McMahon aided the rattlesnake in his victory. This would have been shocking enough without the vision of the two sharing a handshake to the dismay of the fans and commentators alike, who saw their favourite face, a physical manifestation of everything anti-establishment, make a deal with the devil.
9. Goodbye Shawn WM26
A year after his defeat at the hands of the Deadman, Shawn Michaels was so keen to prove himself he put his career on the line against the streak in a rematch at Wrestlemania 26. The pair electrified the fans as they had done a year earlier with a spectacular contest and Shawn Michael’s, knowing it was his last chance to give the WWE universe a memorable show and cement himself forever as Mr Wrestlemania, threw consideration for his own safety aside, diving recklessly from the top rope and driving the Undertaker through the announce table.
But no matter what he did, and despite his attempts to throw the Undertaker off with taunts like mocking his throat slitting action, Michael’s just couldn’t put him down, and found himself on the receiving end of a tombstone pile driver. Not a minute later the Heart Break Kid lived up to his name, simultaneously breaking the heart of every person watching, in the arena and at home, as his in-ring performing career came to a tearful close with a sportsmanly embrace between two fan favourites, before a long walk up the ramp waving goodbye to those he had entertained for almost thirty years.
8. End of an ear WM28
Remember the number 9 moment we just read about, the classic match where The Undertaker retired Shawn Michaels? Well HBK wasn’t the only ex D-X member to feel the wrath of the Phenom, with Triple H also falling short against the Deadman in the three years preceding Wrestlemania 28. Although Triple H didn’t fall short by much, leaving The Undertaker limping out of the arena following their last bought. Determined to build on that momentum and bring an end to the streak, HHH agreed to a rematch with one stipulation – the match would take place inside Hell in a Cell. And who would be the special referee? The Game’s best friend and former tombstone pile driver recipient, Shawn Michaels.
The pair delivered what is honestly for me one of the best and most memorable matches of all time. A brutal clash of titans in which everything was brought to the table. The story behind this match was so important that the wrestling rule book was thrown of the window in the name of an amazing show. As it drew in to it’s final moments a bloodied and defiant Trips executed one final D-X crotch chop before finding himself on the receiving end of a tombstone piledriver, and the streak would live to fight another year.
Seeing those three men help each other to drag their bruised and broken bodies up the ramp in a show of amazing sportsmanship seemed to symbolise the end of an ear which these one of a kind athletes had owned.
It was hard not to get goose bumps looking at those three iconic figures standing together, addressing the enormous crowd, and knowing that they had helped shape the industry for all future fans and competitors.
7. Hogan flips Andre WM3
While the overall quality of this match was nothing to write home about, crowd anticipation was at fever pitch. The match saw 93,000 eager fans braced to see Hulk Hogan, undoubtedly the industries top star of the moment, face his toughest test yet as he faced Andre the giant. The two, previously best friends, had turned bitter rivals – a feud which led them to battle over the Championship at WM3 after Bobby Heenan, Andre’s new manager, shed light on the fact that despite annihilating every opponent he had faced, he had not been given a championship shot against Hogan.
It seemed the Hogan would suffer the same fate, with Andre’s 7’4”, 520 (37 stone) frame proving a worthy adversary for Hogan for the majority of the match.
But then, as he had done so many times in his illustrious career, Hogan rallied, and in a moment that cemented him as the greatest star in wrestling, Hogan lifted the Giant in a godlike show of strength, before delivering a bodyslam that incited such a raucous reaction from the crowd that it felt as though they would blow the roof right off the Michigan’s Pontiac Silverdome. One of Hogan’s signature leg drops would put Andre away for Hogan to retain his title and industry number one spot.
6. I’m sorry, I love you WM24
There are many who consider Ric Flair to be the greatest wrestler of all time; with his long list of honours it’s easy to see why. One person who shared in the fans admiration for The Nature Boy was Shawn Michaels, revering him as an idol. So imagine everyone’s consternation when they heard that it would be Michaels facing Flair at Wrestlemania 24, and it would be Michaels who, in his own words, would put Natche down like Old Yeller.
For the duration of the twenty minute bought Flair found something within himself, digging deep and reminded every person watching why he was so highly respected.
Then, in an act of defiance, Ric stood exhausted and tearful with his fist raised and chest puffed, although it was clear the tank was running on empty. Michaels looked straight at his idol, overcome with emotion, before mouthing “I’m sorry, I love you,” and delivering the Sweet Chin Music, putting an end to the legends career.
The emotion felt by both performers and fans alike is testament to how amazing sports entertainment can be when planning and flawless execution of a storyline come together. Although creative ultimately made the decision, being the person who put an end to someone’s career after regarding them as a mentor was obviously something that created a moral dilemma for Michaels. Regardless of any reservations he may have had, the story unfolded beautifully and was a deserving end to Flair’s glittering career.
5. Boyhood Dream WM12
I know that by now this list may seem a little bit HBK heavy, but there is a reason why he’s known as Mr Wrestlemania. In 1996 there was only one man who garnered as much respect for their in ring performance as Shaun Michaels and that was The Excellence of Execution, Bret Hart. After the Heartbreak Kid found himself the victor of the 1996 Royal Rumble the two were billed to clash at Wrestlemania 12, and the anticipation for such a match was heightened even further when it was announced it would be a sixty-minute Iron Man match for the World Heavyweight Championship.
For the duration of the match the two provided fans with a jaw dropping display of perfect mat wrestling and amazing aerial acrobatics. As the hour drew into it’s final minutes Michaels, after leaping from the ropes, found himself ensnared in the Sharpshooter and the chance of Michaels leaving with the title seemed to dwindle in front of our eyes. Despite this, he managed to withstand the onslaught and the match ended in a draw, prompting interim WWE president Gorilla Monsoon to call for a sudden death overtime match which saw Michaels having the chance to hit Hart with the Sweet Chin Music to secure the title and evoke one of the best soundbites in event history – “The boyhood dream has come true.”
And Vince McMahon was right, it had. Seeing a lifelong fan of the sport attain the accolade that solidified his greatness is surely a moment every fan can agree is one of the best of all time.
4. Tyson/Austin WM14
In a time when the “Monday Night Wars” were raging on, the then WWF needed something to help turn the tides, and it appeared in the form of long time wrestling fan, and recently benched boxing star, Mike Tyson. After having his license rescinded Tyson was eager to make a temporary move to the wrestling ring and lend his name to an already star studded main event and help boost the WWF in 1998.
The announcement of “Iron Mike” as an enforcer in Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels’ World Heavyweight championship match was an electrifying prospect. Wrestlemania has always been adept at ensuring all eyes are firmly secured on it, but this year it surpassed even itself, and the whole world seemed glued to their screens, boxing and wrestling fans alike making predictions for how the spectacle would play out. Just how much of a presence would Tyson actually bring? The build up to the match was littered with amazingly worked moments which had fans questioning whether what they were seeing was real. The infamous attack by Austin on Tyson seemed particularly believable with JR calling “Tyson and Austin! All hell has broken loose” ringing in our ears. This fully immersive experience became a defining aspect of the Attitude Era.
The company was changing, and the moment it happened wasn’t a needle in a haystack lost in a years’ worth of different wrestlers and storylines, it was this one. A tangible moment you could look at and say – this moment changed the course of wrestling history forever. Austin prevailed and defeated Michaels, cementing himself as the face of this new period in the company’s history, months after the WWF began it’s rebranding as an edgier promotion, this match changed the game and wrestling would never be the same again.
3. Yes! WM 30
After the slap in the face for fans that was Daniel Bryan’s 18 second loss to Sheamus at Wrestlemania 28, it seemed like a pipedream that Bryan would one day climb to the lofty heights where he eventually found himself. And he almost didn’t – it was a true Cinderella story and one that, if it weren’t for the fans, may not have had a happy ending.
The corporate entity behind the WWE seemed intent on burying the darling of the indie scene but it would have been futile to ignore the fans wishes for much longer and luckily the WWE realised that, and Daniel Bryan not only opened but headlined Wrestlemania 30. Even during the main event many wouldn’t let themselves believe that the moment would come. After all, Daniel Bryan wasn’t even listed as an entrant for the match and the WWE fed us a number of cues that could have spelled the end, not least of all the interference for Triple H, who Bryan had defeated in the opening match of ‘Mania 30.
But it didn’t, and the perfectly told story had it’s fairytale ending, the so-called “B+ player”, the ultimate underdog, overcame the odds to be the champion he was clearly always destined to be. It was a type of happy ending we had been conditioned not to expect, but there, in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans, united in a chorus of “YES! YES! YES!”, they and Daniel Bryan got the Wrestlemania moment they deserved.
2. Rollins with the heist of the century WM31
Much as it appears today, Roman Reigns dominated the road to Wrestlemania 31, seemingly guaranteed to defeat every opponent that stood in his way, and we as fans, regularly force fed champions no one seemed to want, seemed to have fully resigned ourselves to a Roman Reigns win over the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. To their testament, what many were expecting to be a lacklustre, slow paced match turned out to be bloody and brutal and brought something few people had expected from both competitors. We saw a number of Superman Punches and close counts, and even after an astounding fourth F5, Roman seemed destined to become champion. That is, until the music hit.
Whose music? It was the unmistakable hard-core drumming of Mr Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins’, entrance music.
What? No? He couldn’t, could he? He couldn’t pull off the heist of the century against Vince’s new top man could he? He handed the ref his Money in the Bank briefcase, screaming at him to make the match a triple threat. Whether he was a knight in shining armour, rescuing fans from a Roman Reigns run as champion, or an outright thief, Rollins gave the fans a moment that added an extra layer of suspense to the main event.
In the closing moments of the match Brock Lesnar held Seth Rollins over his head with ease and it seemed all bets were off, until Roman Reigns exploded with a spear, incapacitating the Beast long enough for Rollins to pin an exhausted Reigns to be crowned champion. The shock factor and sheer audacity of this completely unprecedented move by a Money in The Bank champion is what sees it almost take the top stop in my Top 10 Wrestlemania Moments.
1. Blood from the Stone WM13
Most matches pale into insignificance with regards to their importance to the overall legacy of pro wrestling when compared to Steve Austin’s loss to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13.
At this point in his career Austin was a heel, a hell raiser, who caused Bret Hart nothing but problems. The Hitman, comparatively, was the type of person who took great pride in his career, who would never be seen drinking a six pack of beer on the job, and who was highly respected by fans all over the world.
But despite this Austin was still a fan favourite. Appetites were no longer satiated by good triumphing over perceived evils, people wanted to live vicariously through the rebellious Austin and they weren’t afraid to show it.
To answer this, the Hitman let out a brutal side of himself that no one had seen before, leaving Austin bloodied, not to mention sympathetic to the crowd, swaying anyone unsure about giving him their support to completely get behind him.
Which made it all the more heart breaking when Austin found himself folded like a pretzel in Hart’s Sharpshooter, his knee buckling under the pressure, blood pouring from his wounded head. Austin pushed back until his body could no longer withstand the pain and he passed out. The bell rang and Austin was put out of his misery, with Bret Hart being awarded the win.
A torrent of vitriolic abuse was immediately directed at the Hitman, while screams of admiration rained down on Austin, never louder than when he insisted on limping the length of the ramp unaided.
The images of Austin – blood running down his face and over his teeth as his mouth twisted in pain – are some of the most memorable in wrestling history. And this is why it pips everything else to the post to my top spot, as the Number 1 Wrestlemania Moment of all time.
So there we have it folks, a list of what I deem to be the greatest moments, spanning three decades of the Greatest Show on Earth. I spent days compiling this list, combing through old footage, reading interviews and articles, and found myself as overwhelmed and overcome with emotions as I had been the first time I’d seen them. Whether your favourite made the list or not, I think we can all agree that Wrestlemania has provided us with countless unforgettable moments over the years, and here’s hoping it will continue to do so for many more to come.
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