It’s that time of year again. And I’m freaking excited.
Since we’re only a few days away from the Showcase of the Immortals, I figured I’d share some of my favorite WrestleMania moments.
So, here we go…
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania XI)
This was a huge match for a few of reasons.
First, more than 20 years before Jim Hellwig was accusing Terry Bollea of being everything from a drug addict to impotent to gay in 140 characters or less on the internet, these two guys were, arguably, two of the most
‘roided out recognizable figures on the planet.
Additionally, both of these guys were “faces” or good guys here. You didn’t see a face vs. face matchup very often, or at all even, during this time period. You stack that onto the fact that it was a title vs. title match (meaning the dude that won got both the WWF and Intercontinental titles), this was just something you didn’t see everyday. Not even sure if the face vs. face, title vs. title match was EVER done up to this point in the WWF. Big deal.
Lastly, I was a Hogan fan and my brother was a Warrior fan. Whoever won this (when we watched it after renting the VHS from Frank’s Video) had bragging rights for the foreseeable future. Good thing I was the older brother and all I had to do was slap a sharpshooter on to shut him up…
Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)
This was one of the greatest matches of all time. And the second WrestleMania I watched live. My good buddy Bob Hood’s parents ordered it for us. I’m not sure I understood just how good this was when it happened, or how this match changed things…but I remember thinking it was f*cking awesome. Razor was the good guy, here, HBK the heel. Michaels had been the champion, but WWF President Jack Tunney stripped him of the title for not defending it enough. Razor would win a battle royal to win the vacant championship. Problem was, HBK never relinquished the belt. That’s why there’s two titles hanging high above the rafters in this match. It was, basically, a title unification.
Michaels was a bumping machine, too. One of the best ever, period, but the way he threw himself around the ring when he first became a singles wrestler is like poetry in motion.
Also, about a 1-1/2 years later, Bob and I would see the same two guys in the same match for the same title at SummerSlam in Pittsburgh.
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart (WrestleMania XII)
How corny was HBK’s entrance in this one? I was a huge Michaels fan at this point. I remember staying up late to watch this at my house (dad went and got the box from our cable provider to order the PPV) and being so pumped that Shawn won. Especially because I’d get to go into school the next day and rub it in DB’s face – the biggest Hitman mark I know. Good times.
Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13)
Another classic. The image of Austin locked in the sharpshooter, writhing in pain with blood dripping off his teeth is on that’ll last the ages in the world of professional wrestling (or sports entertainment, as it is). Not taking anything away from Bret, because he was an incredible in-ring performer, but if his charisma would’ve been on the same level as his wrestling there’d have never been a Montreal Screwjob. He was always just a little…boring. This match and this story, though, was spectacular. Especially the match.
The Dudleys vs. The Hardys vs. Edge & Christian (WrestleMania X-Seven)
Unbelievable match. The action leading up to the finish was just…I don’t even have the words for it. Edge’s spear on Jeff Hardy as he’s hanging from the cable where the titles are strapped then Bubba and Matt Hardy being pushed from a ladder, to the floor through 4 tables…are two of the most painful looking spots in the history of the business. That’s not even mentioning the other huge spots – Jeff getting powerbombed onto Edge through a table, a Dudley Dog from Spike onto Christian to the outside through a table, E & C’s double drop toehold on Jeff onto a chair, Rhyno goring Matt Hardy through a table, Jeff swanton bombing Rhyno and spike off a ladder through a couple of tables…and JR’s call of “Lita jerking Edge off” when the diva got involved in the match (a foreshadowing if there ever was one) – that were all amazing. One of my favorite matches of all time.
And it made those tag titles so prestigious. Look what they were doing to each other and themselves just to hold those titles. I miss having a tag team division like this one.
The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Hogan was making his first WrestleMania appearance since WMIX. That’s a long time. He was supposed to be the bad guy, but…well, if you watch the match you see who the Toronto crowd is behind. This match wasn’t amazing, technically, but the atmosphere…and the way those two had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands was unreal. That’s not to say the match wasn’t good, though. Hogan worked his ass off. So did Rocky, who was at the top of his game, here. No promos written on his wrists these days.
Seriously…just LOOK at the crowd when Hulk kicks out of that Rock Bottom at the end and hulks up. Pandemonium.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XIX)
First thing’s first, Jericho’s beard at this time was unreal. Second, the confetti bazookas not working during Michaels’ entrance and the way he reacted to it is was awesome.
Anyway, HBK had just come back to competing after a back injury sidelined him for almost five years. This was his first WrestleMania since XIV, when he dropped the title to Stone Cold Steve Austin. As good as HBK was before his injury, when he came back he was even better. He is, truly (at least in my mind), the best there ever was (no offense, Hitman…or DB). So good. I STILL miss him, and he hasn’t wrestled since another one of my favorite matches (which I’ll get to in time…just hold your pants on, there, huh?).
It was a great story, too…Jericho idolized Michaels growing up but kept saying he had surpassed him and wanted to be himself rather than “the next” Shawn Michaels. These guys were great in the ring and in promos together (their matches for the World Title in 2008 were freaking epic). The ending was perfect for Jericho’s character, too. So good.
Undertaker vs. Kane (WrestleMania XX)
Undertaker had a run of a few years as Bikertaker, but he was buried alive by Kane about 4 months earlier. Everyone wondered if his hair was going to be long enough to bring back the Dead Man gimmick (he buzzed his hair when he was Bikertaker)…it wasn’t as long as everyone was accustomed to in this phase, but it was good enough. Plus, he brought back Paul Bearer (“THAT HIDEOUS FACE!”) which both Marino and I marked out for. It wasn’t the best match but it was HIGHLY anticipated. I think everyone missed this version of Taker.
Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XX)
Or, now as the WWE would probably like you to believe, it was just Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H here.
This is one of the best triple threat matches I’ve ever seen. And Triple H tapping out clean to Benoit? Come on…that’s big time. The embrace with Eddie (who had successfully defended his WWE Title against Kurt Angle earlier in the night) was pretty emotional, too. Two WCW guys holding the two main titles in the WWE. Pretty crazy stuff.
What Benoit did at the end of his life is deplorable, but he was a helluva wrestler. It’s a shame how everything went down.
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIII)
This is probably the best match John Cena has ever had. I remember thinking it was such a mistake not giving HBK one more run with the title, especially after this match which is a classic. It was the only WrestleMania I ever ordered while I was stationed down in North Carolina…we got drunk and I marked out for everything HBK did. Just a very good match.
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 26)
Before anything else, this is the best video package the WWE has ever made.
This match was incredible. Two guys in their mid-late 40’s, doing the things they did….it just isn’t fair.
I don’t want to take anything away from the Triple H/Undertaker match from last year…because it was good, but this was the last great WrestleMania match. The card and matches at 27 (excluding Orton/Punk and Triple H/Taker) were forgettable. In fact, I really had to think hard about who was in the title matches. Really hard. That’s probably not a good thing.
I think I liked this one more than their WM25 bout because of the story (and that freaking promo!) that went along with it. Those last few months…I really tried to sit and take in everything HBK was doing because I figured it was the end of the line for him. He was such a talented performer and by far one of my favorites.
And he ALWAYS produced at WrestleMania. Just look at my list. I could’ve thrown a couple other of his matches (vs. Angle @ WM21, vs. Austin @ WM 14, vs. Flair @ WM24…) but I didn’t want you to make this thing TOO long, ya know?
If you want to know why I love wrestling – and WrestleMania – watch a few of these videos and you’ll probably understand. Or maybe not.
Who cares what you think, anyway. Ha!