Oh my God! A quick-fire double by Fays...err...The Future!
At first, Wrestlemania was basically a mega-show for Hulk Hogan to defeat some random "bad guy" and retain his title, along with some other good matches, including celebrities to gain media exposure.
Then, at Wrestlemania VI, Hogan had to defend against The Ultimate Warrior, who was extremely over with the fans. It was one of the first times that the WWE would use a "good guy vs. good guy" match, when they usually had their hero go at it with a "villain."
The idea was exciting, and it was the WWE's two biggest stars in the same ring, facing each other. And it was then that Hogan "passed the torch" to Warrior (although the WWE would later realize that Warrior didn't deserve to be a top guy).
Since then, we started to see some crowning moments occur during Wrestlemania, moments when some veteran who was previously in the limelight passes the torch to some new wrestler who deserved the title.
And how would that young wrestler earn his title match at Wrestlemania? Yes, by winning the Royal Rumble.
A lot of young superstars have won the Royal Rumble and gone on to win their first world title at Wrestlemania. Stars like "The Macho Man" Randy Savage, Bret Hart (although he technically won his first world title at a house show in Canada against 'Naitch), Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, Chris Benoit, John Cena, Batista, and Rey Mysterio.
These 'Mania moments will never be forgotten because all of the mentioned stars made history by winning their first world titles in "The Granddaddy of 'Em All."
And you know that once you win a title at Wrestlemania, then the sky is the limit for your career (well, maybe not so much for Rey-Rey).
But unfortunately, like all other good things, this particular routine had to come to an end. The last time such an event would take place was 2006, when Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble and proceeded to win the world title at Wrestlemania.
Since then, 'Mania has become an occasion for one of two things:
1) For a current champion to solidify his title reign by having a "big" win at Wrestlemania, such as Randy Orton (2008), Triple H (2009), and John Cena (both 2007 and 2006).
2) For an established star to win yet another world title, like The Undertaker (both 2007 and 2008) and John Cena (2009).
Now I know that the evidence I have is only for the past four years, and I know that we can't expect a crowning of a new champion every year, but bear with me.
It seems as though a new concept that the WWE has used to build new stars has spiked their interest more than the usual "Royal Rumble winner goes on to challenge the champion;" they have used an annual Money in The Bank ladder match, where the winner would get a guaranteed shot for either the WWE or heavyweight title at any time he wanted, with an expiration date at the day after the next year's Wrestlemania.
When you mention MITB, Edge is the first who will come to mind. He won the first-ever MITB match, and vowed to use it at the next year's Wrestlemania, but he pulled one of the greatest swerves in WWE history (in my opinion) when he challenged a brutalized and bloodied John Cena, who had just won an elimination chamber match at New Year's Revolution, thus winning his first world title and becoming a very successful main-eventer since then.
Two years later, he defeated Mr. Kennedy (who originally won the MITB match at Wrestlemania 23) in a match over the contract in Smackdown and went on to "cash it in" against a battered Undertaker, who had just won a cage match against Batista, and suffered the wrath of Mark Henry right after the match.
Another person who comes to mind when mentioning Money in The Bank is CM Punk, who has had two consecutive MITB wins in 2008 and 2009. His first one was very unsuccessful, as he cashed it in against Edge, and his three-month title reign was treated as a fluke, which led to his immediate return to the mid-card status after dropping the title (in a very poorly constructed manner).
His second one, in 2009, was a huge success for his career, as he cashed it in against Jeff Hardy, who had just won his second world title from Edge in a ladder match at Extreme Rules. And after that, all the Hardy fans began to hate Punk, which led to his heel turn, where Punk proved himself worthy of going at it with the "big dogs."
The third person (who, if you sort it by date, was actually the second person to win a MITB ladder match, at Wrestlemania XXII) is Rob Van Dam. RVD was the only MITB contract holder to challenge a fresh champion, and ahead of time, RVD informed Cena that he wanted to challenge him for his title at ECW One Night Stand back in 2006.
RVD, driven by the ECW faithful, defeated Cena (with some help by Edge; you know that if you're not a member of DX, then you can't beat Cena clean), thus becoming the WWE champion and earning the ECW title, which he and Paul Heyman rechristened after RVD won at One Night Stand.
Unfortunately for RVD, he got a suspension due to being caught with drugs in his car, and thus was forced to drop the ECW title to Big Show, and the WWE title to Edge.
In conclusion, the WWE started using the annual MITB match at Wrestlemania to build new stars.
So which is better, MITB or Royal Rumble?
I believe that a Royal Rumble winner challenging a champion at Wrestlemania is a better way for young stars to cement themselves as main-eventers.
With the exception of RVD and heels, MITB winners who would challenge a champion always seemed to be flukes, and win in a "cheating" way, thus making them seem weak and reducing their credibility as worthy champions.
But people who won the Royal Rumble will remain in our memories as people who had elevated from mid-carders to main-eventers in an elegant manner.
How can we forget the image of Shawn Michaels sliding from the rafters? And the image of him kneeling, covering his face, with the WWE title neatly folded on the floor, while Vince McMahon would scream "The boyhood dream has come true...for Shawn Michaels!"? That was such a heart-breaking moment (excuse the pun).
Or the image of Bret Hart being carried by his friends at Wrestlemania X?
Or Stone Cold going from corner to corner raising his newly-won WWE title, while J.R would say "The Austin era has begun!"?
And of course, not just my favorite Wrestlemania moment, but my favorite wrestling moment: Wrestlemania XX, 2004, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero embracing in the middle of the ring in Madison Square Garden, with confetti dropping from the rafters. Showing the aftermath of years of good effort, and hard work.
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