A few days ago, a good friend of mine, fellow Bleacher Report writer and host of the LOE Live wrestling show, Chad Porto, asked me to do something of a collaboration with him, I quickly agreed. He asked me to choose my top 20 favorite moments from WWE, while he would choose his top 20 moments from TNA. Chad's column should be posted in the next few hours and I encourage you to read it. You can also hear Chad and myself live tonight on LOE Live at 9est at the following link http://reallordsofevolution.proboards.com/index.cgi?
This came long after WWE had won the Monday Night War, but this made it totally clear that WCW was a sinking ship, WCW had always been able to boast that they had a superior roster, but when these 4 men showed up on WWE TV, WCW lost their best workhorses and gave WWE 4 amazing ring talents who were ready to become mega stars.
Trish was always one of my favorite divas. She had something about her that caught your attention and I don’t just mean her body. She actually had character and made you want to watch for her. Her retirement really set the stage for more or less the downfall of women’s wrestling in WWE. From her starting out as only a manager whit huge tits to becoming one of the most iconic names in wrestling history is no small feat. Fabulous Moolah used to be the measuring stick when it came to women's wrestling, but now it's Trish. That’s one of the reasons I included this. The other is that Trish’s retirement was treated perfectly. WWE clearly showed that this woman was/is important to them and they gave her a great send off. She wins the Women’s title in her hometown against her biggest rival, Lita, and she got a send off that WWE rarely gives it wrestlers.
Now I may be a little biased here since I am a huge Edge fan, but this is still a huge moment. Cena was the man on top of WWE, but his mega popularity over the last half of 2005 was starting to wane and after Cena defended his WWE title in the Elimination Chamber, the Albany crowd was ready to lynch him. Then Vince McMahon came out and announced that the night wasn’t over. Edge was in fact cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and 2 minutes later Edge was celebrated as a hero to the Albany crowd as he pinned Cena after 2 Spears and won his first WWE title.
This is a match that I don’t see get enough credit. Everyone always points to the TLCs or the Wrestlemania 2000 3-way ladder match, but without this ladder match then the matches we would see in the future never come to be. Tag team wrestling in WWE reached its greatest heights in 2000 and 2001 and this match was the precursor to that. Edge, Christian, and Matt, and Jeff Hardy were given the stage to show what they were capable of and they showed it in October of 1999 and blew the world away.
The most recent of events to happen on this list, but still very worthy of its placement here. One of the things I loved most about the attack was that in a time of WWE PG and a very toned down product, we saw 8 men absolutely destroy WWE’s biggest name in John Cena, one of it’s best heels in CM Punk and the entire ringside area, simply to make a point. The viciousness of the attack was great and some of the most compelling TV WWE has put on in a long time.
As with the No Mercy ladder match, this too helped rocket someone to superstardom in the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. While this was not the first ladder match in WWE history, it was the first marquee ladder match and what Michaels did that night was show that he had the tools to be the best the industry would ever see. HBK and Scott Hall knew they had to do something special that night and they succeeded.
This was when WWE turned the corner. Stone Cold Steve Austin had been WWE's hottest commodity for the past year and now he had finally ascended the ladder and beat Shawn Michaels to win his first WWE championship. As Jim Ross said that night, the Austin Era truly began on that night. Just a few weeks later Raw would beat Nitro for the first time in nearly 2 years and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now I wanted to try and keep this list mostly positive, but it’s near impossible to make a list of the biggest moments in WWE history and not include this. Owen Hart’s death is one of the most tragic in wrestling history and while I know many argue that the episode of Raw dedicated to him the next night was just an example of PR by WWE, but I prefer to see it as a beautiful tribute to a great wrestler who’s life ended far too soon.
Now I know that for a lot of fans this moment was ruined when Flair joined TNA, but forgetting that for a moment, let’s look at this moment for what it is. Wrestling’s greatest champion, arguably the greatest performer to ever step foot in a ring, gets a send off befitting such a career. Had this really been the ending Flair in wrestling it could have been a glorious one. Now as it stands, it’s still great and despite Flair going to TNA we shouldn’t forget how great this was. It’s a shame more moments like this don’t get the attention they deserve.
This particular moment holds a very special place in my heart, as it was the first Wrestlemania I ever saw. I was 10 years old and the hype had totally hooked me for Shawn Michaels, my hero, vs. Bret Hart. This moment is vitally important to my wrestling fandom, as it was when I went from being a casual fan to being a total diehard by the end of the night. When I look back at my life as a wrestling fan, there are no 2 wrestlers I hold in higher regard then Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels because without them, I would not be here typing this, nor would I be doing a radio show. Those 2 men gave me something I’ve loved for almost 15 years.
I know this might be cheating, but Wrestlemania X7 still stands as the best Mania I’ve ever seen and picking one moment from that show to put on this list is not easy. Everything about the show stands out to me as memorable. The scope of the event hasn’t been matched, not even by Wrestlemania XX. Every match delivered in every way and in most cases, superceded expectations. If you’re going to hold a gun to my head and make me pick a single moment, then I will choose the main event between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. One of the greatest rivalries in WWE history was showcased and the build for the match is one of my favorites in history. I don’t think it was ever possible for these guys to have a boring feud and that was certainly not the case here. Austin joining forces with Vince McMahon only further cemented this event as being one of, if not the most, memorable in wrestling history.
This was surreal. Not having access to the internet, nor really being an insider fan back then this came as a totally shock when I turned on Nitro and saw Vince McMahon. I really didn’t know what to make of it. I had no clue that WCW had essentially become a money pit, but suddenly knowing that WCW was all but dead was jarring since I had always had WCW and WWE in my life.
This was THE moment when Steve Austin went from great anti-hero to mega star in WWE. There have been many double turns in wrestling history, but this is likely the most memorable. This was when WWE fans saw a man scratch and claw in a grueling match and who was so determined that he refused to give up even when blood was pouring down his own face. Austin earned the fans respect that night and left the arena with the fans loudly chanting his name. Austin admitted that he was trying to become the biggest bad guy in wrestling, but this match only cemented his place as it’s greatest hero.
In the pantheon of biggest title changes this is arguably #1. This was the true starting point of Hulkamania and the beginning of WWE taking charge as the #1 wrestling company on the planet. Hulk Hogan defeats the evil foreign heel that everyone despises and becomes a national hero. It’s simple booking, but damn if it wasn’t effective.
This ideally was supposed to be when Hogan passed the torch from himself to the next lion to lead the WWE into the next generation, of course knowing history we all know that didn’t happen, but if only for 1 day we finally saw the mountain known as Hulkamania climbed. The 2 biggest monsters in WWE face to face and when Warrior pinned Hogan, it was a truly amazing moment
I’m putting both these moments in one slot because they are really connected. Eddie is a great story for his desire to get himself clean and when he came back to WWE in 2002, he was a new man and became an amazing ring worker and when he defeated Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004, it was a great moment mostly because Eddie had come such a long way and he truly deserved that moment. Chris Benoit was very similar. 18 years of scratching and clawing and trying to be the best in the world and in March of 2004 he was in the main event of Wrestlemania XX and he won the World Heavyweight Championship. Benoit had finally reach the apex of his career and in one of the best moments of any Wrestlemania, regardless of what’s happened since, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit got to end the night as World Champions.
Now while The Wrestlemania 13 submission match made Austin into a mega star, this moment help set the path and launched a thousand signs. I’ve always said it was the greatest moment of blasphemy ever and I stand by it. I'll let the video do the talking here.
This was THE moment at Wrestlemania 3. While Steamboat and Savage stole the show with their match, this stare down and match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant is absolutely timeless. When people go back and list the great images from wrestling history those 2 men standing in the ring glaring at each other is one of the first that come to mind. In front of 93,000 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome, Andre and Hulk made a moment that has and will always stand the test of time.
Icon vs. Icon. That’s what this match was billed as and that’s what it was. Wrestling’s greatest showmen met at Wrestlemania 18 in 2002 and boy did this surpass the hype. Now the moment I remember best from this match is the stare down between Rock and Hogan before the match even began as they stared at each other, then they slowly gazed out at the crowd. They let that moment build. They knew exactly what was happening and they milked it for all it was worth, just as they should.
1.) Austin stuns McMahon for the first time
2.) Bruno Sammartino wins WWE title
3.) Vince is the Higher Power
4.) The Black Wedding
5.) Wrestlemania I
And now the moment you've been waiting for; the biggest moment in WWE history!
Gail Kim came into WWE and on her first night in the company won the Women's championship after being the last woman standing in a battle royal. Gail Kim's hard earned victory makes her one of the few wrestlers to win a championship on their first night in the company.
Ok Ok. I'm joking. Kind of. Anyone who listens to LOE live every week, knows that I absolutely love Gail Kim. If I really had it my way I'd put her at #1 on this list and happily walk away, but I know I need to be realistic here, but one way or another I was going to get Gail on this list. Now for the real #1 moment in WWE history.
We can sit here and talk all day about who was right or wrong or whether or not it should have happened at all, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to tell you why this is the number 1 moment in WWE history. The other moments on this list were all huge, but you can’t say that they are what truly saved the company. When the Radicalz showed up WWE was already killing WCW. WCW was on the verge of death when it was bought by WWE. WWE’s legacy was already sealed when that happened. Austin 3:16? Austin didn’t become a mega star for another year after the fact. The point is that this moment, once Vince screamed at the timekeeper to ring the bell, WWE had everything they needed to save themselves from death, a place they’ve admitted they were close to at that point. This moment gave birth to Mr. McMahon, the perfect villain for Austin to have. Without Mr. McMahon, the Rock may not be able to reach the main event levels when he did. Triple H may not have reached that plateau either. The Montreal Screwjob set the stage for it all. We had the hero in Austin, but Montreal was the birthplace for his great foil. It’s funny because realistically this should have been what ended up killing WWE and it actually saved them from oblivion.