Every single WrestleMania has those moments that go down in history as WrestleMania moments. It can either be a career-defining championship victory, an insane move that no one has ever seen before or a moment that is defined as historical just by the crowd reaction the superstars receive.
Every wrestler on the roster attempts to steal the show by having one of these moments to stand out and make his mark on WrestleMania history.
A chosen few have stood above the others and are lucky enough to have had WrestleMania moments that will be replayed in video packages for years to come. Out of those moments I have attempted to choose the 10 best.
The Lead-Up: Shawn Michaels had been stripped of his WWF Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney for not defending his title often enough. This led to a battle royale to determine the new WWF Intercontinental Champion. Razor Ramon would emerge victorious. Michaels refused to acknowledge the new champion and refused to give up his old belt. This would lead to the first ladder match in WrestleMania history with both Intercontinental belts on the line.
The Moment: This was a classic match in WrestleMania history highlighted by our No. 10 moment. Shawn scaled the ladder and flew off nearly the top of it to land onto his opponent. People had never seen anything like this in the WWF prior, and it pushed the envelope as to what could be seen in a WWF ring.
The Lead-Up: Kurt Angle had become WWE Champion three months before WrestleMania at WWE's Armageddon pay-per-view by defeating The Big Show. He would hold the belt through WrestleMania XIX and put it on the line against the 2003 Royal Rumble winner, Brock Lesnar. This would set up the main event at WrestleMania between the two most accomplished amateur wrestlers in WWE history.
The Moment: The match was an amazing back-and-forth contest between two world class athletes. Neither could get the upper hand on the other. This led Brock Lesnar to attempt a shooting star press from the far turnbuckle—no easy task for the 300-pound Lesnar. Lesnar flew off the ropes and landed just shy of his target, landing on his neck in the process. The video is amazing to watch and I'm still amazed that Lesnar didn't seriously injure himself. He was able to recover from the botch, hit Angle with an F5 and pin him to become the new WWE Champion.
The Lead-Up: The tag teams of Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz stole the show at WrestleMania 2000 in a triangle ladder match for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The match was the best of the night and won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year for 2000. The build up to WrestleMania X-Seven introduced tables and chairs to the ladder match for the first TLC match in WrestleMania history.
The Moment: This match was filled with huge, memorable spots. But one spot stands above them all. Jeff Hardy was making an attempt to get to the tag belts hanging above the ring. Bubba Ray Dudley grabbed the ladder from under Hardy's legs, leaving Hardy hanging from the belts. At the same time Edge had reached the same height on the largest ladder in the match and speared Hardy out of the air down to the mat. The bump was huge and the crowd erupted.
The Lead-Up: Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit had risen through the ranks together, first as WCW cruiserweight division mainstays and eventually to the big leagues as main eventers in WWE. Guerrero was entering the event as WWE Champion. Chris Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble and decided to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship. Shawn Michaels also had a claim to be in the match, after fighting Triple H to a draw at the Royal Rumble. Thus the triple threat main event was set.
The Moment: Guerrero and Benoit finally reached the mountaintop together at WrestleMania XX. Eddie defeated his challenger for the WWE championship in Kurt Angle earlier in the night. Benoit, in a huge upset, defeated both World Heavyweight Champion Triple H and Shawn Michaels in the main event for his first World Heavyweight Champion in PWI's Match of the Year for 2004. Following the win, Guerrero met Benoit in the ring in an emotional moment as the two friends celebrated together in the middle of a confetti-filled Madison Square Garden.
The Lead-Up: Following the 2007 Survivor Series, Mr. McMahon issued a win-or-retire stipulation to Ric Flair. His next loss would be his last. Following this Flair went on a winning streak leading to WrestleMania XXIV. He defeated such stars as Randy Orton, Triple H and Mr. Kennedy. In late February of 2008 Flair challenged Mr. WrestleMania himself, Shawn Michaels, to a match at WrestleMania XXIV. Michaels reluctantly accepted the challenge, not wanting to be the wrestler to end Flair's career.
The Moment: Flair, at the spry age of 59, put on a match for the ages. In a match that was named PWI's Match of the Decade, Flair and Michaels told a story that was able to pull at the heartstrings of the audience. The ending of the match was near perfect. The beaten down legend never backed down to the younger Michaels. Michaels, knowing he had Flair beat, reluctantly hit the former champion with sweet chin music, but not before uttering "I'm sorry, I love you." After Michaels pinned Flair, HBK left the ring to Flair and the crowd thanked Flair for a legendary career.
The Lead-Up: Heading into WrestleMania VI Hulk Hogan had held the WWF Championship since WrestleMania V when he defeated Macho Man Randy Savage. Hogan also had won the Royal Rumble just two months prior to the event. The Ultimate Warrior was the Intercontinental Champion and had been since defeating Rick Rude for the title at the 1989 SummerSlam. Following Hogan's win at the Royal Rumble he challenged The Ultimate Warrior to "The Ultimate Challenge"—a match between Hogan and Warrior to see who was truly the strongest force in the WWF.
The Moment: 67,000 fans packed into Toronto's Skydome to see the matchup between WWF's two biggest stars. Neither wrestler was able to get the upper hand for most of the match. Hogan finally was looking like he was going to be able to vanquish the Intercontinental champion, setting up his patented leg-drop finisher, but Warrior was able to roll out of the way. Warrior then hit Hogan with a running splash for the 1, 2, 3. Warrior celebrated his dual championship victory and was given the WWF Championship belt by Hogan in a passing-of-the-torch moment.
The Lead-Up: The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin had been feuding with the nWo since the No Way Out pay-per-view a month prior to WrestleMania X8. The Rock's main beef was with Hollywood Hulk Hogan while Austin squared off against Scott Hall. The Rock challenged Hogan to a match at WrestleMania on the February 18 episode of Monday Night Raw, leading to the Icon vs. Icon match at WrestleMania X8.
The moment: Hollywood Hulk Hogan had been one of the biggest heels in wrestling since the 1996 WCW Bash at the Beach pay-per-view where he joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to create the New World Order. The Rock was one of the biggest fan favorites in the WWF, earning the monicker of "The People's Champion." The crowd didn't seem to care who was the face or the heel in the match, cheering both wrestlers like the legends they are. Hogan played up the moment and the crowd ate it up, basically forcing the end of the nWo and the return of Hulkamania shortly after WrestleMania.
The Lead-Up: Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin started their feud following Austin's 1996 King of the Ring win. Austin began taunting the injured Hart during this time and it led to a match at the 1996 Survivor Series which Hart won. Hart then lost his WWF Championship to Sycho Sid on Monday Night Raw after Austin hit Hart with a steel chair. This all built up to their match at WrestleMania XIII that was fought under a No-Disqualification Submission match stipulation.
The moment: Hart and Austin beat the hell out of each other from the opening bell. They wrestled in the ring, outside the ring and in the crowd. They used the steel steps, the ring bell and Austin even choked Hart with a television cable. After Hart hit Austin with the ring bell he was able to get Austin into his finisher—the Sharpshooter. With blood pouring out of Austin's head, he struggled to break the hold but was unable to. He passed out from the pain rather than tapping out, and Hart was declared the victor by special guest referee Ken Shamrock. Hart then attacked the injured Austin, turning Hart heel and Austin face.
The Lead-Up: Shawn Michaels successfully defended his WWF Championship at the 1998 Royal Rumble, the same night that Stone Cold Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble. This set the main event for WrestleMania XIV. After the Royal Rumble Mike Tyson was named the special guest referee for the main event at WrestleMania by Vince McMahon. Austin interrupted the announcement and challenged Tyson saying the wrestling ring was his, not Tyson's. McMahon then changed Tyson's role in the main event to ring enforcer. Three weeks before WrestleMania Tyson appeared again, revealing his allegiance to Shawn Michaels' group, DX.
The Moment: Austin was riding a wave of momentum over the last year or so and was the clear heir to the throne atop of the WWF. The WrestleMania build was huge and the moment was perfect for Austin to take his spot at the top. The match wasn't the greatest ever, with Michaels clearly fighting his injured back throughout. But the finish was perfect. Michaels was tuning up the band for his Sweet Chin Music, but Austin was able to duck it. Austin went for his Stunner, but Michaels reversed into another Sweet Chin Music attempt that Austin caught. Austin then spun Michaels and hit the Stunner with Tyson counting the 1, 2, 3. Austin was the new champion, Tyson had double-crossed DX and the Attitude Era had officially begun.
The Lead-Up: The build to WrestleMania III was built around Andre the Giant's annoyance over the adoration of WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. The feud began when Hogan was given a trophy for being WWF Champion for three years and Andre was given a slightly smaller trophy for being undefeated in the WWF for 15 years (he wasn't actually undefeated but in storyline he was). During Andre's award presentation, Hogan had come out to congratulate his friend on the accomplishment but Andre felt Hogan had stolen his spotlight once again. In a later episode of Piper's Pit, it was announced that Bobby Heenan was Andre the Giant's new manager and the Andre wanted to challenge Hogan at WrestleMania III for the WWF Champion.
The moment: WrestleMania III was one of the largest in history. The WWF had sold out the Pontiac Silverdome and packed in 93,173 people who were all clamoring for the main event between Hogan and Andre. With Andre being billed as undefeated, there was serious doubt regarding Hogan's chances to defeat the challenger. The match was nothing special but the crowd was into every move of the main event. The penultimate move of the match, and the No. 1 moment in WrestleMania history, saw Hogan slam Andre, followed by his leg drop to defeat the giant and retain his WWF Championship.
For WWE news and analysis you can listen to me on Podcast of the Immortals with a new episode every Tuesday afternoon.