Ranking the Top 10 Biggest Pops in WWE History
As fans of the WWE, there are certain moments that keep us coming back for more, the greatness of which can usually be decided by the reaction of the crowd.
These moments are otherwise known as the pop.
In the world of professional wrestling, a pop is defined as a positive response from the audience, usually as a result of a wrestler’s entrance, his in-ring performance or perhaps a surprising victory.
For many fans, myself included, it’s moments like these that continue to captivate our interest.
Anything and everything that we see on a WWE show yields a pop, though with varying degrees of success. Some are resounding, some almost unnoticeable, and it is only the biggest pops that stand the test of time and remain etched into our memories forever.
From stunning returns to shocking upsets, this list takes a shot at ranking the top 10 biggest pops that the WWE has seen.
Of course this is just my opinion, and I’d love to know what you guys think. Let me know if you agree or if I’ve left out any of your favorite WWE pops in the comments section below.
There are a number of pops that don’t feature on this list though they perhaps could have.
Firstly, this is a WWF/E list, therefore instances from other companies have not been considered. This explains exclusions such as Dean Malenko’s pop at WCW Slamboree 1998 or Sandman’s ECW return in 1999.
Other notable cases include the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VIII and Hulk Hogan’s famous 2002 Montreal ovation. They have been left out as they are simply great ovations, whereas a pop tends to be viewed as a more sudden eruption from the crowd, as opposed to a sustained applause.
Furthermore, John Cena and Edge’s Royal Rumble returns could easily have made this least, but unfortunately they just missed out on the final cut. Cena was, at one stage, my choice at No. 10, until this man came along.
Brock Lesnar's WWE Return: April 2, 2012
Having accomplished his UFC ambitions, Brock Lesnar returned to the company where he first made his name.
While this may not have been the loudest pop of all time, the passion of the Miami crowd is what really makes it stand out.
They were raucous throughout the whole segment, and at times it’s hard to believe that this was a PG-era audience, particularly around the 2:15 mark of the accompanying clip.
The whole occasion was a real throwback to the WWE’s more prosperous days of old, thus making it one of my favourite pops of all time.
The Rock's WWE Return: Feb. 14, 2011
Along with Lesnar's, this was perhaps the most memorable return of the modern-day era.
However, given his greater star power and more extensive history with the company, The Rock’s return appealed to a wider range of fans; thus the return of The Great One ranks slightly higher than that of Lesnar.
The fact that it meant he would also feature at WrestleMania a few weeks later only added to the delight of more than 17,000 fans in the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Rock could have featured on this list with any number of his various returns, but given that it had been such a long time since he had graced a WWE ring, this one was the most memorable of them all.
Chris Jericho Beats Triple H for the WWE Championship: April 17, 2000
While most pops come from a wrestler’s entrance, sometimes they can be triggered by an unexpected victory, such as that of Y2J over Triple H in 2000.
Given that Jericho had only been a part of the company for seven months, his chances of winning the title were slim.
But with Earl Hebner looking for revenge on The Game, his quick count gifted Jericho a huge upset that sent the crowd into raptures.
Though the decision was later reversed and Jericho was never technically recognised as champion, the controversy and audacity of Jericho’s “win” ensures it remains a truly memorable moment in Raw history.
Austin Interferes at Backlash: April 30, 2000
Less than two weeks after Triple H’s match with Jericho, The Game faced The Rock for the WWE title at Backlash 2000.
In what was one of the PPV's greatest shows, Triple H was once again up to his dastardly ways, and it seemed that the whole company was against The Rock.
But in typical attitude-era fashion, it was none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin who emerged to do exactly what he does best.
Arrive. Raise hell. Leave.
His interference, and the ensemble of chair shots and stunners that followed, were all greeted with vehement approval from the Washington, D.C. crowd.
The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8: March 17, 2002
It was Icon vs. Icon, and it did not disappoint.
Heading into WrestleMania, The Rock was the face and Hogan the heel. But as the two legends stared each other down before the match, the audience was split.
Hulk then quickly began exhibiting his physical dominance over The Great One, and it wasn’t long before nostalgia got the better of the crowd.
Once again, Hulkamania was running wild over the Toronto Skydome.
The multiple pops that greeted Hogan’s signature taunts were unbelievable, and it was clear that the Hulkster was revelling in the crowd’s adulation.
Though it ended in defeat, Hogan’s 10th appearance at WrestleMania was perhaps one of his best.
Triple H's WWE Return: Jan. 7, 2002
Triple H himself described it as his greatest moment in a WWE ring, and there’s little wonder why.
A WWE return at Madison Square Garden is the stuff that many can only dream of, but for Triple H it became a reality.
After almost eight months out, The Game was given a resounding reception, this despite the fact that he had been one on the company's biggest heels before his abrupt departure.
The roar that greeted his trademark water-spray on the apron was deafening, almost managing to drown out his entrance music.
It was a fitting tribute to one of the legends of the industry.
Given that the man himself ranks it above any of his 13 world title reigns, you can certainly understand why this moment had to make my list.
British Bulldog Beats Bret Hart at SummerSlam: Aug. 29, 1992
For 20 years this has been considered one of the biggest pops the business has ever seen.
Competing in his native country, the British Bulldog defeated Bret “The Hitman” Hart to win the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 1992.
Wembley Stadium was awash with flailing limbs, as fists were thrust into the air in celebration.
And the reaction of the crowd was enough to leave both Vince McMahon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan speechless at the commentary table, which is no easy feat.
Hall of Fame announcer Howard Finkel struggled to be heard over the jubilant cheers in what will go down as one of the greatest moments in SummerSlam history.
Austin Saves the Day: July 16, 2001
Though the 2001 Invasion angle is widely criticised, I for one thought it was great, although this may be because I was just 9 years old at the time.
Nonetheless, it is indisputable that the storyline produced one of the greatest pops in history as, once again, Stone Cold Steve Austin was there to save the day.
With “Team WWF” outnumbered, the TitanTron began to cut to scenes of The Rattlesnake backstage, steadily making his way past members of the “Alliance,” presumably on his way to the ring.
With anticipation at its zenith, Austin’s entrance music struck and the audience erupted. Further roars met each of the seven stunners Austin dished out, which must be some kind of record even by his standards.
It may have been somewhat predictable, but the segment remains one of my personal favourites.
Shawn Michaels Taunts Bret Hart: Aug. 15, 2005
Despite portraying a face for much of his second stint with the WWE, Shawn Michaels still had all the necessary credentials to play the ultimate bad guy.
Returning to the scene of the Montreal Screwjob, the Heartbreak Kid was never going to be given an easy ride, and of course, Michaels was well aware of this.
In what should have been a promo for his upcoming SummerSlam clash with Hulk Hogan, HBK chose instead to play off the audience’s fury, demonstrating some of the greatest heel work that I have ever seen.
With the crowd in uproar, Bret Hart’s music hit, drawing a truly colossal pop as their anger quickly turned to astonishment.
But Hart never appeared.
Nonetheless, credit must go to HBK for orchestrating the audience as he did, creating possibly the most hostile environment that the WWE has played host to.
Austin Lends Mankind a Helping Hand: Jan. 4, 1999
I know this is technically his third appearance on the list, but the fact remains: No one draws a pop like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
After Ken Shamrock of the Corporation struck Mankind with a chair, it seemed likely that The Rock would take advantage and retain the title.
Though Austin evidently had other plans.
His arrival produced a gargantuan pop, and after striking the rock with a steel chair of his own, Mankind got the pinfall that won him his first ever WWE title.
Moments before, WCW had mockingly broadcast that Mankind was scheduled to win the match. The plan backfired though, and hundreds of thousands of fans changed the channel to see it for themselves.
From there on, the WWE dominated the Monday Night Wars and the rest, as they say, is history. So was this the pop that put WCW out of business?
Perhaps not, but it was certainly big enough to merit a place at the top of this list.
But what do you think? Don't forget to comment below and let me know your all time favorite WWE pops.