The Grandest Stage. The Granddaddy of Them All. The Showcase of the Immortals. Whatever you want to call it, Wrestlemania is the most hotly anticipated professional wrestling event of the calendar with tens of thousands of fans clambering from around the world to get a ticket and millions watching around the world.
35 editions of Wrestlemania has been seen by the hundreds of millions of fans in the last three and a half decades which means there has been a lot of memorable moments to sink their teeth into from the heartwarming moments like the reunion to Miss Elizabeth and Randy Savage to the utterly shocking like The Miz retaining over John Cena at Wrestlemania 27.
1.Seth Rollins Cashes in During the Wrestlemania 31 Main Event
The only man to do it and the man to make what many considered a very poorly built Mania main event unbelievably interesting. A lot of fans had turned on Roman Reigns because he was being pushed to John Cena levels and the fans decided to reject him and instead, supported the part time champion. Reigns won the Rumble match after he overcame The Authority with the help of his cousin, The Rock, which punched his ticket to the main event of Wrestlemania 31.
Seth Rollins won the Money in the Bank briefcase after being put in said match by The Authority vowing for him to win. At this time, Rollins was the ‘golden boy’ of The Authority, could do no wrong and got everything handed to him. Rollins lost earlier in the night to Randy Orton, a match that gave us another Wrestlemania moment with the greatest RKO out of nowhere we’ll ever see.
The actual match between Lesnar and Reigns was very one-sided, as most Lesnar matches are, with Reigns taking the beating and coming back into the match sporadically but for it to be instantly shut down by The Beast. It evened out after Lesnar was rammed into the corner post and cut open but Reigns was still not in full control of the momentum but would show defiance towards Lesnar, mainly laughing at his attempts to attack. You’d anticipate Reigns was told to do this by Vince to get the crowd more behind him as the defiant babyface who does as he pleases, but that still didn’t work. A lull near the end of the match is where it got really good, Lesnar hits an F5 on Reigns but is exhausted from the long match he put himself through, an average length for other competitors.
The opening sounds of The Second Coming hits the speakers and out comes Seth Rollins looking like he’s running from Triple H after doing something he shouldn’t do, down to the ring with briefcase in hand. He hands the briefcase to senior official, Mike Chioda, the referee rings the bell to signal the triple threat match and two Curb Stomps later, one to Lesnar and one to Reigns, Seth Rollins is your new WWE Champion. He runs to the top of the ramp in disbelief he is holding the championship before frantically swinging it above his head. Michael Cole made this moment even more memorable with his line ‘the heist of the century’ because it was exactly that, Rollins cashing in the briefcase to steal the title from under both Lesnar and Reigns noses. It led to a very respectable title run for Rollins before he suffered his knee injury.
2. Brock Lesnar Breaks the Undertaker’s Streak
One day wrestling fans never thought would come, the end of the legendary undefeated streak. 21 consecutive Wrestlemania wins, we thought it would last his whole career, possibly reaching 30. At the time, you’d think that Brock Lesnar was not the right person to end the streak of the Undertaker, you’d expect it to be a rising star who would use this win to kick-start their career.
But looking back at it, the past six years, Brock Lesnar has been given a resurgence as the unstoppable final boss of WWE, all built on this win. The build to this match was a weird one, starting with Paul Heyman complaining that Lesnar wasn’t in the title match at Mania, so the Authority gave him a contract to face anyone. He obviously picked the Deadman with the only interaction between the two coming at the contract signing where Taker stabbed Brock’s hand with a pen and Chokeslammed him through a table. That was it, no wild brawls, no elaborate build. In the match itself, Taker looked absolutely shattered straight away with both men trading submission attempts before Undertaker succumbed to Lesnar’s third F5.
There was no theme music, no noise from the crowd, all you could hear was Heyman freaking out and Justin Roberts announcing Lesnar as the winner. We got the brilliant image of the stunned Taker fan, which became a meme and forever will be, and the shocked look on the faces of Heyman and Brock which would make people think this was a botch. Taker slowly rose to his feet, to applause from the fans and graphic on the screen saying ’21-1’, an eerie sight that we will never forget.
3. Daniel Bryan Defies the Odds
The greatest underdog story in WWE history, one man defying his bosses to become the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. A man, who has never fitted in to the WWE mould based on his height, lack of distinct muscle and different move set would rise up and unite the WWE universe against the Authority. Every wrestling fan knows how damn good Daniel Bryan is in the ring and the passion he has for the business which made the rally behind him that much sweeter despite Triple H and Stephanie McMahon believing he was only a ‘B+ player’.
The build to this moment was absolutely beautiful and every set back Bryan went through made his victory more satisfying with it starting all the way back at SummerSlam 2013, eight months prior to Wrestlemania. A series of matches with Orton, and screwjob finishes, led us to the fans voicing their opinions louder and louder with Bryan being omitted from the Royal Rumble match and entry into the Elimination Chamber. Bryan took matters fully into his own hands with his ‘Occupy RAW’ segment, bringing fans into the ring and refusing to leave unless Triple H gave him what he wanted. Hunter gave in and did as Bryan pleased but only if he could defeat him in the opening match of Wrestlemania, the winner going on to the main event against Randy Orton and the winner of the Royal Rumble, Batista.
The weeks leading up to Mania was Triple H attacking Bryan constantly, focusing on his shoulder which was heavily taped in both matches in New Orleans. In the opening match of Wrestlemania XXX, Bryan defeated Triple H despite a heavy attack on his injured shoulder to punch his ticket to the main event. Bryan would be severely outnumbered in that triple threat match, not only by his opponents, but by Triple H who would interfere with Stephanie and a crooked referee, Scott Armstrong. Eventually, Bryan would be taken out the match after a Batista Bomb/RKO combination through the announce table with Daniel being put onto a stretcher to be taken out the arena. He fights of the EMT’s to stay in the match but is still outnumbered. Batista and Orton’s partnership disintegrates and both start to compete against each other giving Bryan the chance to pick one off.
He isolates Batista and hits him with the running knee and makes him tap out to the Yes Lock, winning the championship to an absolutely raucous crowd. Michael Cole again made this moment amazing with his commentary saying ‘the miracle kid, the miracle kid, the miracle on Bourbon Street’ as Bryan stood on the announce table and lifted the titles above his head with the ‘Yes’ chant.
4. Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant
Often imitated, never duplicated. That is the saying that will forever be synonymous with Andre the Giant. This match gave us more than one iconic moment, not only the slam but Andre’s entrance to the ring in the mini cart to no music, Bob Eucker announcing him and fans throwing garbage at him as he waved to them.
At the time, WWE billed this match as ‘the greatest match in sports entertainment’ and that is extremely fitting, Hulk Hogan was the be all and end all in professional wrestling at the time, a time where kayfabe wasn’t a prominent thing like it is today. To the fans in 1988, Hogan was the valiant baby-face overcoming the evil foreign giant but seemed like he couldn’t in the build-up to the match. The heel turn by Andre prior to Mania and the match itself stemmed from jealousy after Jack Tunney gave both men trophies, Hogan for being champion for three years and Andre for being undefeated in 15 years but Hogan’s was significantly larger than his friends.
It seemed impossible for Hogan to slam Andre, he even attempted it in the match about two minutes in but to no avail, ten minutes later he ‘Hulked up’ and managed to lift Andre and drop that sweet Leg Drop for the three and to retain his title to complete adulation from the fans in attendance. Something that the fans never thought would happen, did on the grandest stage of them all giving us one of our earliest and long standing Wrestlemania moments.
5. Shawn Michaels Retires Ric Flair
With a tear in his eye and the words ‘I love you’ coming out of his mouth, Shawn Michaels ended the 36-year career of the Nature Boy with one swift Sweet Chin Music. In November 2007, Ric Flair returned to WWE to declare he would never retire, Vince McMahon decided to test that and informed Ric the next match he would lose, later changing that stipulation to only include singles matches.
Ric went on a streak of beating mid to higher card talent, the likes of Randy Orton and MVP before deciding that if he was going to retire, he would do it at the hands of the very best on the biggest stage. It was set up and made official, with a hype package that made Shawn look more of a heel wanting to end the career of the older competitor, referring to Ric as Old Yeller and taking him behind the woodshed. As expected, the entrance Ric had was ridiculously elaborated with fireworks in the background and a robe that would make a peacock jealous. Shawn looked ready for business but was one step behind the veteran constantly on the backfoot with any move he did being countered.
Eventually the field evened out and Ric succumbed to the inevitable and just like that, his career was over, well so we thought before he went to TNA but we won’t talk about that. He would hug his family, including a young Charlotte, before making his way to the back in tears.
Wrestlemania is the moment maker, I know that is Keith Lee’s thing but everything to happen at Mania is more memorable than anywhere else.
How to watch Wrestlemania
Full details of the event can be found here.