With WrestleMania right around the corner, I figure it’s as good a time as any to take a look back at some of the most memorable WrestleMania moments over the years. Keep in mind, this is a list of some of my personal favorite, it’s not meant to be a comprehensive list of the ten greatest WM scenes. That’s why you won’t find Hogan bodyslamming Andre or that awful clip of Liberace dancing with the Rockettes here. Feel free to add your own ‘Mania memories, or call me a fool for choosing the ones I did, in the comments. So without further adieu, 10 of my favorite WrestleMania moments. Enjoy!
10. The Boyhood Dream Realized (WM XII)
At WrestleMania 12, Shawn Michaels’ boyhood dream came true when he won the WWE Championship. He did so by defeating Bret “The Hitman” Hart in the first ever Ironman match, and to be honest, the match itself is remembered more fondly than it should be. It was long, kind of boring, and a bit of a disappointment considering the two guys wrestling. The aftermath, however, when Shawn was handed the title, more than made up for any shortcomings in the actual match. Watching the Heartbreak Kid’s dream come true was awe-inspiring. It wasn’t Shawn Michaels first WrestleMania moment, and it certainly wasn’t his last, but it was the one that made him Mr. WrestleMania.
9. Edge gets Hardcore (WM 22)
Edge is one of the greatest superstars of this millennia, but his position at the top of the card wasn’t always so safe. After years of service as a midcard talent, Edge finally broke through into the main event picture in January of 2006, cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase and winning the WWE Championship. His reign only lasted three weeks, though, and it looked like he could wind up just another transitional champion. Two months later, at WrestleMania 22, he silenced any doubts that existed about his ability to become a lasting main eventer. In the best match on the show, Edge defeated Hardcore legend after spearing him through a flaming table, and solidified himself as one of the top players in the game. Kudos to Foley for putting him over so well too.
8. Piper’s Change of Hart (WM VIII)
The Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania 8 was a face-on-face battle between Roddy Piper and Bret Hart, with Piper carrying the title into the event. In the climax of one of the best undercard matches in WrestleMania history, Piper contemplated smashing Bret Hart over the head with the ring bell while the referee lay unconscious. The once villainous heel couldn’t bring himself to do it, however, and instead locked Bret in his trademark sleeper hold. Bret reversed the hold and pinned Piper, giving the Rowdy Scot his first ever pinfall loss in the WWE. The fact that Piper went so long without being pinned is a story in and of itself, but his loss here to his friend Bret Hart, a rising young star, is the kind of thing that makes WrestleMania such a special event.
7. Chris Jericho’s Revenge (WM XIX)
At WrestleMania 19, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels wrestled in what is not only one of my favorite WrestleMania matches, but one of my favorite WWE matches of all time. The whole rivalry was built around Shawn Michaels being Chris Jericho’s childhood hero and Jericho resenting his actions as of late. The pair electrified the Seattle crowd and stole the show, but in the end, the wrong guy won. Rather than passing the torch to Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels was victorious. After the match, HBK extended his hand to the Lionheart. Jericho responded with a tearful hug, seemingly acknowledging the continued greatness of his childhood hero. While they embraced, however, Jericho drove a knee into Shawn’s family jewels. When Mr. WrestleMania dropped to his knees, Chris piefaced him down to the mat. This was one of the greatest heel moments in the history of heel-dom.
6. A Radical Reunion (WM XX)
Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero’s friendship was no secret. The pair ran together for the duration of their careers, traveling internationally together before touring ECW, WCW, and finally WWE. After years of promoters telling them they were too small to be main event stars, both men came into their own around the same time. Eddie Guerrero won the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004, and a month later at WrestleMania 20, Chris Benoit was successful in winning the World Title. He even made Triple H tap out, marking the first Mania main event to be decided by submission. After the match, Eddie joined his friend in the ring, and the two guys who were “too short” to make it big celebrated together with the two most important championships in the wrestling industry, finally recognized for their outstanding talents.
5. Blood from a Stone (WM 13)
WrestleMania 13 was the birthplace of the WWE’s illustrious Attitude Era. More specifically, the Attitude Era was born of the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret Hart “I Quit” match. The conclusion of the fight (and it was fight) saw Bret Hart lock an extremely bloodied Stone Cold in the Sharpshooter square in the middle of the ring. Austin, refusing to tap out, withstood the pain until his body gave out on him and he fell unconscious. Bret was the winner, although Austin never quit, and Stone Cold was the newest hero for the masses. Refusing all medical assistance once he regained consciousness further solidified Stone Cold’s position as WWE’s resident badass, a role that made him one of the biggest stars the business has ever seen.
4. The Biggest Icons in Wrestling (WM X8)
Talk about chills – I’m getting goosebumps just looking at this picture. The crazy thing is, I’ve never been a big fan of Hulk Hogan, and I only moderately enjoyed The Rock as a good guy. Still, put the two icons in one ring, and I was enthralled. It’s not everyday that the biggest stars of two generations stand opposite each other in the squared circle, and I cannot think of another instance in which two juggernauts of this caliber faced off. The only showdown even comparable to this is the potential Rock vs Cena one that’s currently looming. And still, I don’t think that could begin to accomplish what this match did. These guys, The Rock and Hulk Hogan, defined their respective eras. Watching them lock horns was a surreal experience, and was truly electrifying.
3. The Nature Boy says Goodbye (WM XXIV)
This one loses some of its luster if you keep up with TNA and see Ric Flair still wrestling in meaningless matches, but at the time, it was as sentimental a WrestleMania moment as you’d ever find. Shawn Michaels reluctantly delivered a Sweet Chin Music to the dirtiest player in the game, who seemed to take it willingly, knowing that his time was up. As a result of his loss, Flair was forced to retire, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. This was about as good a send-off as anybody could ask for, and nobody deserved it more than Ric Flair. The match itself was pretty dang fine, too.
2. Macho’s soft side (WM VII)
WrestleMania VII included a fantastic retirement match between Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior, but it was what occurred after the closing bell that will always be remembered. After losing the match, Savage was being berated by his manager Sensational Sherri. Then, Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s former manager and old flame, charged the ring after a near year-long absence from wrestling. She chased Sherri off, then turned her attention to The Macho Man. When Savage arose to see Elizabeth there, he wrestled with how to react for a few tense minutes. Then, the couple embraced. Savage hoisted Elizabeth up onto his shoulders and paraded around the ring while pomp and circumstance filled the arena. A smile glowed on his face despite having just lost his career – he had his lady. When exiting the ring, he even held the ropes apart for her to step through them, in contrast to the way she used to hold them for him. If that’s not true love, ladies and gents, I don’t know what is.
1. The Great Sibling Rivalry (WM X)
WrestleMania X opened with a fantastic brother vs brother match in which Owen Hart shocked the world by stealing a victory over Bret. In the final match of the show, however, The Hitman won the WWE Championship from the evil Yokozuna. After he did, everyone from the locker room joined him in the ring to celebrate his victory. Everyone, this is, besides his brother Owen. While Lex Lugar, Razor Ramon, and others lifted Bret onto their shoulders, Owen appeared in the entrance with a look of disgust to watch his brother carried around the ring. Owen had finally beaten his brother Bret, but in the end, he couldn’t escape his shadow.