The 29th installment of WrestleMania has come and gone, and it has left in its path a divided fanbase, an extended undefeated streak, a new WWE Champion and the continuation of an all-time great career.
As with every "Showcase of the Immortals," this year's event featured a number of moments that will be looked back upon with great fondness in the years to come. What were those moments? I am glad you asked.
The freshly inducted Hall of Famer returned to WrestleMania for the first time since his battle royal appearance in Chicago for the sequel of the original event. Many believed they would never see the former two-time heavyweight champion appear on WWE programming again, so to see him recognized both in the Hall and on the grandest stage known to the sport was a nice, deserved moment.
The biggest criticism of last year's event was the way in which Daniel Bryan was disrespected to open the show. The World Heavyweight Champion at the time, he walked into a Brogue Kick and was beaten in near-record time by Sheamus. This year, he made up for that embarrassing loss by bringing great intensity to the WWE Tag Team title match and picking up the win for his team following a diving headbutt to Dolph Ziggler.
The Dead Man not only extended his legendary undefeated streak at WrestleMania, he did so despite injuries to both he and his opponent, and he did it in the best match of the evening. The Undertaker and CM Punk put together a match that had the fans eating out of the palm of their hands, absolutely captivated by the action and buying into every near-fall. In the end, Punk could not withstand a final Tombstone piledriver and The Phenom of World Wrestling Entertainment celebrated his latest victory.
WrestleMania has long been built on paying off storylines and providing fan-friendly moments. Heading into this year's show, most expected Paul Heyman to get what was coming to him, but whether it would be The Undertaker or Triple H that dealt it out would be the question.
The answer? Neither of the above. Instead, Shawn Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music to Heyman during the No Holds Barred match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar, a moment that excited a crowd during a match they were less than vocal for.
During the climax of the WWE Championship match between John Cena and The Rock, Cena once again appeared to make the mistake of mocking the People's Elbow. This time, when he hit the ropes and The Rock popped up, ready to strike with a Rock Bottom, Cena stopped and taunted The Great One. He had outsmarted one of the all-time greats, and it nearly ended with him capturing the WWE Championship. As it turns out, he would do just that moments later, courtesy of the Attitude Adjustment.
One question was running through the minds of everyone as Ryback and Mark Henry took to the ring in the second match of the evening: Could Ryback get The World's Strongest Man up for his finishing move, Shell Shocked? That question was answered in the post-match activities, when Ryback hoisted Henry in the air and delivered the move to a thunderous ovation inside MetLife Stadium.
Many wondered if Sunday night would see the end of The Shield's undefeated streak, a streak that had seen them defeat former World Heavyweight and WWE titleholders such as Kane, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and John Cena. That question was answered when Roman Reigns exploded into Randy Orton with a spear and Dean Ambrose picked up the win for the villainous trio. With so many victories over top-level talent, one has to wonder what is next for The Shield.
As if a match against The Undertaker did not cement his status as one of the top stars of this era, CM Punk was also treated to the elaborate entrance at this year's show. With Living Colour performing "Cult of Personality" as he entered the arena, Punk was finally treated as the elite performer he is. The performance was great, the entrance (while simple) was outstanding, and it really helped magnify the importance of the Second City Saint's match with the Phenom.
From the moment it was announced that Fandango's first match would be at WrestleMania, fans knew the company had big plans for the young up-and-comer. When it was revealed that his opponent would be Chris Jericho, some were stunned that Y2J's talents would be "wasted" on someone with such a gimmick. But when Fandango made his entrance at WrestleMania, complete with a group of ballroom dancers, fans knew they were seeing a star of the future. His win over Jericho only cemented it.
As he stood in the ring, looking the new WWE Champion John Cena in the eyes, The Rock could clearly be seen saying "I came back for this very moment." From the moment he returned to World Wrestling Entertainment back in 2011, many expected that he had done so to eventually put John Cena over as one of the all-time greats, much like Hulk Hogan had done for The Rock way back in 2002.
Defeated, he extended his hand in a sign of respect, and the new champion accepted. Rock would then make the long walk up the ramp, where he would then raise Cena's arm in victory, anointing him and welcoming him to the class of all-time great Superstars. As prolific as Cena's career has been, as decorated a performer as he is, that one moment may have been the greatest of the WWE Champion's career.