It’s WrestleMania weekend, and everybody has their favorite WrestleMania moments. That includes me, so I’m giving my favorite moments from the biggest show of the year. I’m only counting shows that I watched live as they happened, so this Shawnnn Michaels-Ric Flair match that I’m watching as I type but didn’t see when it happened doesn’t make the list. Hope you enjoy!
WrestleMania 17: TLC 2
This was the culmination of a year’s worth of buildup. WrestleMania 16 had a tables and ladders match between the three teams of the Dudleys, The Hardys, and Edge & Christian. Summerslam a few months later added chairs to the mix to make it a TLC match. And then at WrestleMania 17 we got TLC 2. And boy did these three teams put on a show. The match combined all the best elements of ECW with some great storytelling and well placed run ins by the plus one for each team. The climax spots, when Edge speared one of the Hardys while he was hanging from the tag team belt that was suspended in the air and the crazy crash through stacked tables by the other Hardy and one the Dudleys were two of the most dangerous and well executed spots you will ever see. I watched it a few weeks ago and those spots still make me jump out of my seat. They, and this match, were that great and that crazy.
WrestleMania 28: Cena vs Rock
This was the match that brought me back into the fold. I’d taken a pretty long break from watching; when the Attitude Era ended in 2002 I began to drift away and by the end of the year I was pretty much gone. I had a last hurrah watching of WrestleMania 19 and then I was completely out until 2011, when I heard the Rock was coming back to host WrestleMania 27. And when that show was over and the main event for WM 28 was announced a year in advance, my interest returned. I slowly phased back in to get ready for this moment. I acquainted myself with John Cena and the reasons why so many people do not like him, based on the negative things I’d heard I didn’t expect much from this match. I came back to see the Rock, and if he could still go. He did fine, but Cena led him through what turned out to be a very good match and put Rock over clean to boot. And I’ve been back ever since.
WrestleMania 30: Daniel Bryan Victorious
It was art imitating life. Bryan being labeled a B-plus player by Triple H and Stephanie MacMahon was no doubt just an onscreen restatement of what Vince McMahon was saying to them backstage. And as we’ve seen over the years Vince will push somebody like Diesel or Lex Luger even when there’s a more obvious choice like Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels on the roster so it was no surprise that they were going to go with Randy Orton vs. Batista for the main event of WrestleMania 30 before the fans revolted and made that just flat out not doable. But even when they audibled and put Bryan in the main event there was still some concern among all of us that he wouldn’t come out with the belt. But prevail he did, and gave a storybook ending on the 30th anniversary of the big show.
The night also debunked once and for all the Eric Bischoff philosophy of booking, that somebody like Bryan could not draw enough interest through his ring work and could not overcome his small stature and convince the fans that he was a plausible world champion. And that was the best part of it all, that it opened the door to a different kind of performer getting to run with the ball if we as fans wanted him to get the chance.
WrestleMania VI: Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior
This is still number one after all these years. For one the idea that Hulk Hogan would take another good guy, especially one who rivaled his popularity at the time like the Warrior, was just unheard of. The WWF just flat out did not do face vs face matches (nobody really did that much, but they NEVER did them) so to do one at WrestleMania of all places was above and beyond my imagination. Second, by 1990 I was long past done with Hulk Hogan. Not only did he never lose (all you Cena haters have no idea what it means to not put people over) but his matches had become formulaic to the point that everyone knew exactly how they would end – kick out of opponent’s finisher, hulk up, three punches, big boot, legdrop. He was literally doing this every time by then. So I was rooting hard against the Hulkster here. And much to my chagrin, the match looked as if it was going to go that way again when they put a nice twist on it when Warrior dodged the legdrop, hit a big splash, and got the three count. Hogan losing, totally clean, at WrestleMania was something that shocked us all. We all just knew that no matter suspenseful the match was it would end like it always did. But that didn’t happen. I dare say I’ve never seen anything like that sense. And later on as I learned just how manipulative Hogan was behind the scenes, him agreeing to put somebody who was a real threat to his spot like the Warrior is even more remarkable.