WrestleMania: A Look at the Event of Heartbreak, Triumph and Immortality
WrestleMania; a Showcase of the Immortals; The Grandest Stage of Them All. It is truly the biggest stage in not only World Wrestling Entertainment, but sports entertainment as a whole.
The lights are brighter. The audience is larger. The stage is more expensive. All the wrestlers in the locker room are sure to give it their all, as this is the moment they’ve been waiting for their entire lives. The moment they craved when they first decided to lace up a pair of wrestling boots and step into the squared ring for the very first time.
Today, I present to you a number of moments that were the culmination of many dreams and many grueling hours of hardwork and dedication. These moments will consist of both triumph and heartbreak. I present to you the passion, the glory and grandeur that is WrestleMania.
Hogan Slams Andre
The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object
Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant had been friends for three years. Wherever the Hulkster was, Andre followed. Hogan had been the WWE Champion over those three years, while Andre had been undefeated for nearly two decades.
Hogan would receive a trophy for his accomplishment, then Andre would come out to congratulate him. Afterward, Andre was presented a smaller trophy for his accolades. This, for whatever reason, is when jealousy set in. Andre no longer thought of Hogan as a friend, but as man who had something he wanted—the WWE Championship.
Andre would employ the services of Bobby “The Brian” Heenan, who announced the new relationship on an episode of Piper’s Pit. Heenan would also confront Hogan about Andre being the new No. 1 contender for his championship, and the match would come at WrestleMania 3.
Come 'Mania, in front of just over 93,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome, Hogan did the unthinkable. He did what many believed to be impossible. He hoisted the 475-pound giant in the air, and slammed him down on the mat. He bounced off ropes for his signature Leg Drop as the Hulkamaniacs in attendance roared in applause, and pinned his foe to retain his championship.
Although the event had been held two times previously, this is without question was the moment that established WrestleMania as the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
The Macho Man Finds His True Queen
At Royal Rumble 1991, Sensational Sherri came out before Ultimate Warrior’s WWE Championship match against Sargent Slaughter, begging him to give her love interest, "Macho King" Randy Savage, the next title shot if he should win.
Ultimate Warrior simply said no, despite the many sexual innuendos Sherri added in. Slaughter, however, had already promised Savage a title match if should he win. Given this, Savage and Sherri interfered in the match multiple times on Slaughter’s behalf, and eventually cost Warrior the match and his championship.
Savage had already interfered in Warrior’s championship match against "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase on Saturday Night's Main Event weeks prior, and would numerous more times, eventually resulting in a match at WrestleMania 7.
This wasn’t just any match, though. Whoever lost this match would be forced to retire from the WWE.
After over 20 minutes, The Ultimate Warrior would overcome the odds and defeat the Macho King. Warrior celebrated, then promptly left the ring as Savage’s queen—Sensational Sherri—entered.
A livid Sherri stomped and screamed at Savage before getting physical.
Two, three, four kicks to the chest as a look of concern slowly flooded the face of Miss Elizabeth.
Sherri pounded Savage’s head into the mat, sending Elizabeth over the edge (and guardrail) in the process. Elizabeth entered the ring and pulled Sherri out by her hair.
Savage got to his feet, swinging at Miss Elizabeth when she attempted to help him, not realizing it was her. When he did, he pointed at her, then Sherri who continued to lose it outside the ring.
The crowd stood up in anticipation of what was going to happen next. Was the Macho Man going to reunite with his true queen?
Yes. They embraced as tears dripped down the face of Miss Elizabeth. The crowd erupted in applause as well as tears.
Randy Savage had finally seen the light and embraced the one who loved him all along.
The Boyhood Dream Finally Comes True
At 12 years old, Shawn Michaels knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He knew what his life’s goal was, a boyhood dream you could even call it. And since that time, he had been obsessed with achieving that goal—winning the WWE Championship.
He had worked and trained in preparation of possibly getting a chance to hoist the championship high. He had the opportunity the previous year at WrestleMania, but fell to Diesel. He suffered numerous setbacks since that time, but now, setbacks were no option. Failure was no option. He was going to WrestleMania XII to defeat Bret Hart in the 60-minute Iron Man Match and finally capture the gold that had eluded him his entire life.
Meanwhile, Bret Hart was atop the WWE as its rightful champion; but that wasn’t a pedestal he was ready to step down from just yet.
What becomes of the man when he finally fulfills his dream? What becomes of the boy if he doesn’t?
After 60 minutes of grueling action—and some of the best professional wrestling the WWE has ever seen—no pinfalls had been scored.
Hart took his championship and walked down the aisle. He was high-fiving some fans in the front row when it was announced that the match was going to go to sudden death; the first man to score a pin or submission would be declared the winner, and consequently the WWE Champion.
In the sudden death period, The Heartbreak Kid somehow fought his way to victory by nailing Hart with Sweet Chin Music. Hart’s valiant effort just wasn’t valiant enough on this night.
“The boyhood dream has come true!” Vince McMahon said excitedly. Despite all his troubles, everyone knew Michaels was destined for greatness. And on this night, he finally achieved greatness.
Stone Cold Hart Break
Looking to make more of a name for himself after winning King of the Ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin would spend the summer of 1996 calling out Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who hadn’t been seen in a WWE ring in months.
This would set up a Survivor Series match between the two, which would determine the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship. A match Hart would win, only for Austin to cost him the championship match.
Austin would continue to do whatever it took to get inside the mind of Hart. He was going to do whatever it took to get another match with him. And eventually, he got that match. That match would take place at WrestleMania 13.
Win, lose or draw, Bret, it ain’t over. You’re never going to get through with Stone Cold Steve Austin. You're going to have to kill me first, son, and that’s the bottom line and that’s the truth.
Hart’s ego had begun to grow and temper had boiled over, while Austin’s determination to reach the top was second to none. Both of these things would come to light in their WrestleMania match, a match many consider to be one of the greatest.
Hart tried everything, but nothing worked. Austin just wouldn’t give up. He wouldn’t give up with blood rushing out of his skull while he was locked in Hart’s Sharpshooter.
He grimaced in agony before slowly fading away. Soon, his head was collapsed in a pool of his own blood. His arms were motionless. He would be deemed unable to continue, thus crowning Hart the winner.
Hart would have to be forced out of the submission by special guest referee Ken Shamrock, then leave the ring in a fit of a rage with boos cascading down at him.
Austin would leave under his own power, heroically and with the pride of knowing he gave it his all. In the months that followed, he would catapult his way to the very top of the WWE, and Hart would leave the company after the infamous "Montreal Screwjob."
Two Friends Reach the Top Together
They had wrestled all over the world together, hoping to one day reach the pinnacle of success in their industry. Over this time, they formed a bond like brothers.
At WrestleMania XX, Eddie Guerrero retained his WWE Championship against Kurt Angle, while Chris Benoit hoisted the WWE Championship in the air for the very first time in his career.
Benoit has been close so many times! Year after year, mile after mile, continent after continent, Benoit never gave up! He never gave up, and Benoit has done it! Benoit is living his dream! Finally, finally, finally…My God, finally, Chris Benoit has become the heavyweight champion of this world!
Nine years later, I’ll leave you to be the judge on how this moment should be remembered. However, it was very emotional at the time and considered to be one of the best moments in the history of WrestleMania.
The Champ is Here!
John Cena had defeated Kurt Angle, giving him the right to challenge JBL for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21.
Cena was a rapper from Boston with a degree in "thuganomics," in contrast to JBL who was a wealthy, fiery-tempered businessman. Needless to say, Cena and JBL didn’t exactly see eye to eye.
JBL would cost Cena his United States Championship against JBL’s “cabinet member” Orlando Jordan. They would proceed to blow up Cena’s custom made championship.
At WrestleMania, Cena would prevail over JBL after a 15-minute match that JBL largely dominated. It was his first WWE Championship victory, a feat he’s accomplished nine additional times since.
Cena fell on his knees and kissed the gold, before going outside the ring to celebrate with the crowd. The boy who once made a championship out of paper and proclaimed it to be his had now accomplished a lifelong dream.
Rey Does It for Eddie
Rey Mysterio did the impossible. He entered first and lasted over an hour to win the Royal Rumble match, therefore giving him the right to wrestle in the main event at WrestleMania 22.
He did it for his friend Eddie Guerrero, who had passed away months prior. Now, he was determined to win the World Heavyweight Championship in honor of Eddie.
But, things didn’t go as planned thanks to a man named Randy Orton.
Orton told Rey that Eddie wasn’t in heaven, he was in hell. He did this to provoke Rey enough to where he’d accept his challenge to put his spot at WrestleMania on the line in a match at No Way Out.
At No Way Out, Orton would win the match via roll-up, submitting his place at WrestleMania 22 and taking away Rey’s in the process. However, WWE SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long would give Rey a second chance, and add him into the World Heavyweight Championship match at The Showcase of the Immortals. The champion he would face was Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle.
The match at WrestleMania 22 consisted of fast-paced, three-way action. Orton was the antagonist, Mysterio was the protagonist and Angle sat somewhere in between as the defending champion. Mysterio rarely had the upperhand in the match, but somehow managed to gain it in the closing seconds to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
Ladies and gentlemen, dreams do come true! At 15 years old, Rey Mysterio began wrestling in a small church in Mexico. Sixteen years later, his journey culminates by winning the championship!
Chavo Guerrero and Eddie’s widow Vickie would join Rey on the ramp to celebrate. Rey Mysterio was finally a world champion. He had finally won The Big One, and it was all dedicated to his amigo Eddie.
Viva la raza Eddie Guerrero. Rest in peace.
'I'm Sorry, I Love You'
Shawn Michaels was honored to announce the induction of Ric Flair into the WWE Hall of Fame. Flair had said weeks earlier that he would never retire, but Vince McMahon had something else in mind.
He told Flair that as long as he kept winning, he could continue wrestling in the WWE. However, the next time he was to lose, he would be forced to retire.
Knowing this, Flair proposed a match with Michaels at WrestleMania 24. A match Michaels was at first hesitant to take, claiming he didn’t want to be known as the man who ended the career of Flair. However, The Nature Boy said if he couldn’t beat the best, which was Michaels, then he wouldn’t want his career to continue.
Michaels accepted the challenge. He said at WrestleMania 24, he was going to bring Mr. WrestleMania. He was going to bring The Showstopper, and he was going to bring The Main Event. At WrestleMania 24, he was going to put Flair out of his misery.
And Michaels wasn’t kidding. In a true spectacle, Flair and Michaels laid everything on the line at The Showcase of the Immortals. They pulled out every move in their arsenal, but it still wasn’t enough to put the other one away.
In the end, Michaels backed up into the corner. This time, he didn’t tune up the band, but instead mouthed the words “I’m Sorry, I Love You.”
Flair, in tears, knew it was coming. He knew there was nothing else he could do.
Michaels extended his leg and nailed Flair with "Sweet Chin Music" The legendary career of Flair had finally come to an end.
Michaels collapsed down to the mat and began sobbing with his friend and mentor. Two years later, Michaels would suffer the same fate on the same stage.
"If I Don't Beat You, I Have No Career"
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker won the Slammy Award for 2009 Match of the Year. Michaels came out to accept the award, but eventually let his competitiveness get the best of him. He challenged The Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania one final time.
The Undertaker would deny Michaels’ request, leaving Michaels only hope to be to win the Royal Rumble then challenge him, the World Heavyweight Champion, at WrestleMania 26.
Unfortunately for Michaels, that didn’t happen. He was eliminated by Batista after delivering "Sweet Chin Music" on the apron. He would go on a rampage, superkicking referees in a fit of rage. This would be symbolic of the weeks to follow, where Michaels would obsess over wrestling The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Triple H told him there were other guys he could face, but Shawn simply replied, “Not for me.”
At the Elimination Chamber, Michaels interfered and cost The Undertaker his match and World Heavyweight Championship. Only then would The Undertaker accept his challenge, on one condition—if he lost, his career was over.
Michaels, without hesitation said, “You don’t get it. If I can’t beat you at WrestleMania, I have no career. You’re on!”
WrestleMania 26 was filled with pure magic. On the night stars make themselves legends, Michaels and The Undertaker made wrestling an artform.
The Undertaker was a man who no longer had mythical powers. In reality, he was human just like the rest of us. The only thing superhuman about The Demon from Death Valley was his will to win. His will to keep his undefeated streak at WrestleMania alive. No matter what Michaels did, The Undertaker would kick out of.
For Michaels, he was a man competing on desperation. Desperation to prove to himself that he truly earned The Mr. WrestleMania nickname, and desperation to keep his storybook career going.
In the end, Michaels tugged at the boot of The Undertaker to help himself up. The Undertaker seemed to be having second thoughts, until Michaels did his throat slashing taunt then slapped him in the face. This left The Undertaker with no choice but to hit The Tombstone and end the career of The Heartbreak Kid.
Thank You, Edge
At WrestleMania 27, Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio in the opening match to retain his World Heavyweight Championship. Just eight days later, Edge would announce that due to test results he had gotten back, that he had no other choice but to retire from the WWE.
Edge’s last match would remain the WrestleMania 27 victory, and he would retire as the World Heavyweight Champion, the same way he spent much of his career.
Though he didn’t know he would be retiring at the time, the 27th installment of The Showcase of the Immortals did mark the last stop in Edge’s phenomenal career. His post WrestleMania teary-eyed address to the WWE Universe will go down as one of the most shocking and emotional moments in WWE history.
A year later, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Thank you, Edge.
The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat
For a year, John Cena walked around telling everybody about how he was going to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania 28. For the following year, he’s had to deal with the shame of knowing that he failed in doing that.
At WrestleMania 28, The Rock won and experienced the thrill of one of the biggest victories of his career. The thrill of knowing that after eight years, eight long years away from the WWE, he could return and defeat the very best.
Cena had to experience the agony of defeat. He rolled from the ring to the floor, then sat on the stage. In that moment, only one word could describe his emotion—devastated.
He was devastated for a year knowing he couldn’t get the job done. He was able to win the 2013 Royal Rumble, while The Rock won the WWE Championship at the same event. So now, John Cena has a second chance. He has a chance at redemption.
Will Cena capitalize on that second chance and hoist the WWE Championship in the air once more, or will The Rock repeat history and beat Cena at the Grandest Stage of Them All for a second time?
Well, you’ll have to tune into WrestleMania 29 on April 7 to find out. More history-making moments await.