Pro Wrestling Countdown: The Ten Most Unforgettable Moments In WWE History
Be sure to check out a few of the previous editions of the Pro Wrestling Countdown after reading this one:
- The Greatest WWE Pay-Per-Views of the 21st Century
- The Greatest TNA Matches of All Time
- Chris Jericho's Greatest Matches
- SummerSlam's Greatest Matches of All Time
- The Undertaker's Greatest Matches
- Shawn Michaels's Greatest Matches
and be sure to follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/rossrutherford
Editorial Note: Before I begin I would like to make it clear that this Countdown will not only include WWE moments. I used the WWE title for obvious reasons an because the majority of this Pro Wrestling Countdown is filled with WWE moments. I just consider WWE as a shorter way to say pro wrestling. I understand many people will take issue with me doing this. Sorry. I wanted to include WWE in the title, but I didn't want to leave out any unforgettable moments from other wrestling promotions.
Welcome to the Pro Wrestling Countdown.
Professional Wrestling would be absolutely nothing without these defining moments. Wrestling relies on past events, wrestlers, angles, and most importantly, moments, unforgettable moments to give it a since of creditability and history.
These moments never leave our head and all of them represent something much more significant. While some of the represent a turning point in the industry and others showcase the very beginning of something new. There are also cases in which a moment represents the ending of something or someone truly spectacular.
All of these moments I am going to talk about are unforgettable and a few should be unforgettable. Its hard for me to imagine the existence of professional wrestling today had not some of the events occurred.
So without further adieu I present the ten most unforgettable moments in the history of professional wrestling.
No. 10: Bret Hart Forgives Shawn Michaels
For over 12 years, bad blood raged between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.
During this time the “Heart Break Kid” tried to justify what he did and remained steadfast that he did what he had to. Bret Hart refused to forgive and forget.
However, after a renewed partnership with WWE and with the news that the “Showstopper” would be retiring after Wrestlemania XXVI, I guess it dawned on “The Hitman” that his time to forgive Michaels and bury the hatchet was running out.
Seeing Hart and Shawn in the same ring again was almost scary. I sat on my hands as I awaited Shawn to deliver Sweet Chin Music or for Hart to lock in the Sharpshooter, but neither of them ever came.
We got sincere apologies from both men and saw Bret Hart finally forgive Shawn Michaels for the wrongs that he committed back in 1997. What happened next though I never saw coming. Shawn turned to leave, but made a U-turn and came back and hugged his former rival.
Both men admitted to be difficult to work with and be around and it seems they finally realized that the past should be put in the past and it was time it close the door on the Montreal Screwjob.
The same year, Bret Hart inducted his father, Stu Hart, something he had always wanted to do, and Shawn Michaels retired after losing to The Undertaker.
All the bitter tastes and hurt feelings were finally tossed out and both men can forever leave the world of professional wrestling and know that they left no door unclosed.
It was the conclusion that I wanted and I think it is the ending that was needed. It was needed by the fans and it was needed for Shawn and Bret. I think both of them will be perceived better for it.
This has to be one of the most unexpected moments to take place in recent years. I never thought Shawn would be able to sincerely regret what he did and I never thought Bret would be willing to forgive him. I stand corrected and I can’t be happier that I am…
No. 9: Vince McMahon Buys WCW
From the fall of 1995 until the spring of 2001, WWE went head-to-head with Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff's Word Championship Wrestling every Monday night.
Eric Bischoff wanted to move WCW's top show from Saturday afternoon to Monday night so that WCW could go head to head with the WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Turner agreed to put WCW Nitro on prime time to the surprise of Bischoff and so began the Monday Night Wars.
WCW did not start out with a solid upper hand, but with acquisitions like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Gene Okerland, Roddy Piper and several other big names in wrestling, they began to turn the ratings in their favor by the summer of 1996.
Monday Night Raw would not overtake Nitro again for over 80 weeks.
WCW maintained a lead over WWE by taking many established talents from WWE. They also raided Paul Heyman’s ECW offering talented wrestlers well-paying jobs. Guys like Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio became legends during their time in the WCW’s cruiserweight division.
The NWO was also considered to be a very hot angle that got fans to tune in to see week after week. These were some of the contributing factors to WCW’s short-term success in the mid-1990s.
WWE tried to keep up with them with stars like Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, and a handful of other loyal WWE performers.
By the fall of 1997, though, Bret Hart was more or less kicked out and WWE began to try and establish new stars in there company as WCW kept the same old established stars at the top of their promotion.
Vince McMahon began to push new talent in WWE like Triple H, Mankind, The Rock, Kane, and of course, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
This, in my opinion, is why the WWE won the “war.” While WCW enjoyed their comfortable success with their established stars, WWE took strides to improve their product, pushed new talent, and planned ahead, as the short-sighted WCW took a turn for the worse.
On March 23, 2001 Vince McMahon appeared at the beginning of WCW Nitro as well as Monday Night Raw. This was the first and only simulcast between the companies. After six years, WWE had trumped Ted Turner’s hand-fed WCW.
Thus ended what was one of the most revolutionary times in the history of pro wrestling.
We saw WWE reinvent itself in a desperate attempt to win back their now-divided audience and the succeeded even though at times it looked like they might lose to Turner.
We saw a company challenge WWE for the first time We also saw the rebel promotion, ECW, do things no one else would even dare to try on national television.
This night marked the end of all of those things and thus began the modern era of pro wrestling. The moment when McMahon said he was the owner of WCW, everything in the wrestling world changed.
WWE became the king of pro wrestling.
No. 8: The Many Tragic and Unexpected Deaths Of Professional Wrestlers
Picking just one would be impossible.
Since I began watching professional wrestling I have had to watch many talented athletes die too young. I’ve seen guys like Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Test, Umaga, Lance Cade, Davey Boy Smith, Mr. Perfect, and numerous other athletes die because of the effects that this business had on them.
Some left this world in a terrible and desperate way, some left quietly and forgotten, and some left only to be remembered as legends.
Any time we lose a talented athlete to drug abuse, heart failure, or due to any other substance abuse problem it isn’t only a blow to the fans as they have lost a great athlete, but it is also a blow to the industry as a whole.
Regardless I will never forget where I was when I found out about the deaths of guys like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit or Owen Hart.
Losing these guys was hard as I grew up admiring them and they entertained me every week and the sudden shock of not being able to see them was somewhat hard to understand.
I remember not understanding Owen Hart’s death as I was still not familiar with the concept of death. I just understood that I wouldn’t be able to see him again. I cried on my birthday when I found out about Eddie Guerrero’s death.
I didn’t cry for Chris Benoit as I was able to figure out what had actually happened to his family almost as soon as they said all three of them had died.
I only cried for Daniel and Nancy, but I still to this day miss Chris Benoit as an athlete. I will never lose my respect for him as a performer, but on that day I lost all respect for him as a man and a human being.
I’m sure I will have to see more of these talented athletes leave this world too soon, but I sincerely hope the rate of pro wrestling deaths subsides.
These moments aren’t moments we want to remember, because these are moments we don’t want to happen in the first place, but regardless of whether we want them or not they are without a doubt unforgettable and truly tragic.
I hope that seeing longtime friends and legends die from substance abuse has taught the next generation of professional wrestlers something.
I hope people like Mr. Perfect, Eddie Guerrero, and others can serve as an example that if you abuse drugs and use them to get ahead, that it will eventually kill you.
There is a reason this made the Countdown…
No. 7: Shawn Michaels Wrestles His Final Match
I tried very hard to not include this moment on this Countdown, but I just couldn’t.
I wanted to keep it off because of the fact that retirements in professional wrestling are sometimes hard to judge. Ric Flair’s retirement a few years ago was a huge deal! Then, however, he showed up in TNA and has since come out of retirement on several occasions and these matches were not made a big deal.
However, I decided to include Shawn’s because I trust Shawn’s word. Shawn Michaels has given more to the fans of WWE than almost any other performer.
Shawn has had more five-star matches than any other wrestler in the history of the sport and has given us hundreds of unforgettable moments and memories that we, as fans, will be able to cherish forever.
So I decided his retirement will indeed be an unforgettable moment in wrestling history. If he does return for a “One Night Only” type of thing the WWE will be smart enough to make it a huge deal and it will do little to harm this moment.
Shawn had one of the greatest last matches of all time. He pulled himself up by grabbing his opponent, The Undertaker. The Undertaker in showing a sign of respect yelled for Shawn to “stay down.”
However, “The Heart Break Kid,” ever defiant, ran his finger across his throat mocking The Undertaker and then slapped “The Deadman” sealing his fate.
An enraged Undertaker delivered the Tombstone piledriver.This ended The Undertaker's 18th Wrestlemania match and, more importantly, the career of Shawn Michaels.
His career spanned over 20 years and in those 20 years, Shawn became one of the most controversial, innovative, hated, talented, and beloved professional wrestlers to ever step into a wrestling ring.
Shawn Michaels himself is unforgettable and the end of his career will be a moment not soon forgotten by his droves of fans all over.
A man often imitated, but never duplicated; there will only be another Shawn Michaels and he gave us everything he had.
Thank you, Shawn.
No. 6: Hulk Hogan Joins The New World Order
The sensation known as “Hulkamania” is often cited as being the biggest factor to the wild success of the WWE and pro wrestling in the 1980s. Professional Wrestling became a pop culture phenomenon during the 1980s thanks to Hulk Hogan.
He was the ultimate babyface. He was the most marketable pro wrestler to ever live and his impact shook the world of pro wrestling. To this day, if you ask some stranger the name of a pro wrestler, they would more than likely say Hulk Hogan.
By the 1990s, Hulk Hogan’s relationship with WWE began to deteriorate. It got so bad that Hulk Hogan actually testified against McMahon following WWE’s steroid scandal in 1994.
When Hogan entered WCW, he continued to play the undeniable babyface, but by 1996 his appearances became very sparse.
1996 saw the departure of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash from WWE. After they left the “invaded” WCW and promised that they would be taking over.
At Bash at the Beach, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash wrestled Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting in a tag team match. During the match, Hulk Hogan reappeared and was expected to save his friends from these invaders.
What happened next has to be one of the most notable heel turns to ever occur. Hall and Nash fled to the outside as Hogan stormed the ring. As Hogan looked on at them, he turned sharply and delivered a leg drop to his fallen comrade, Savage.
After this, Hall and Nash entered the ring and the newly created New World Order stood tall in the ring.
The crowd began to shower the ring with trash. The fans took issue with Hogan taking away a hero to all of their children.
Hulk Hogan was always supposed to be the guy who would save the day, but Hogan took that away from the fans to create one of the most influential stables of all time.
Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash started their takeover and with the momentum of one of the greatest heel turns of all time, nothing could stop the nWo from “taking over” WCW.
The popularity of the nWo angle would soon fizzle out as more and more people became involved with the stable, but the immediate impact of Hulk Hogan’s turn shook the world of wrestling and created one of the most popular trios in wrestling history.
No. 5: Shane Douglas Throws Down The NWA Championship, ECW Is Born
“…I am not the man who accepts a torch to be handed down to me from an organization that died, R.I.P., 7 years ago.
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas is the man who ignites the new flame of the sport of professional wrestling. Tonight before God and my father as witness I declare myself, “The Franchise”, as the new ECW Heavyweight Champion of the World!
We have set out to change the face of professional wrestling.
So tonight let the new era begin. The era of the sport of pro wrestling, the era of “The Franchise”, the era of the E-C-W!”
Shane Douglas gave this promo, one of the greatest promos in wrestling history in my opinion, just moments after winning the finals of a tournament to crown the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
The contents of this promo were only known by Douglas, Tod Gordon, and of course, Paul Heyman.
This was Tod Gordon’s, the owner of Eastern Championship Wrestling at the time, way of breaking away from the NWA, changing their promotion’s name to Extreme Championship Wrestling, and becoming their own independent promotion. This was the moment in which the legendary innovation of ECW truly began.
Shane Douglas shocked fans and the entire NWA Alliance when he threw down the legendary NWA World Heavyweight Championship moments after winning the title.
After throwing down the NWA Championship “The Franchise” picked up the newly created ECW World Heavyweight Championship and claimed it to be the only real World Title.
Douglas did indeed light the flame that would begin one of the most innovative promotions in wrestling ever at this moment.
ECW would go on to tear down the child-like innocence of pro wrestling and create a grown-up version of the sport that could be enjoyed by the more adult male viewer looking for blood and wrestlers who could actually put on good wrestling matches.
It all started with Shane Douglas. This is the moment that inspired a whole company. ECW was made to be anti-establishment, all about breaking the rules and giving society the finger.
This moment will never be forgotten by the fans of ECW.
Shane Douglas’s promo was a turning point for wrestling. It marked a change and professional wrestling has never been the same since.
This is most likely the most unforgettable promo in wrestling history.
No. 4: The Undertaker Throws Mick Foley Off A Cage; Twice!
"Good God almighty! Good God almighty! They've killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!" – Jim Ross moments after Mick Foley fell.
This moment has to be the biggest “OMFG Moment” in the entire history of WWE. The clip of Mick Foley being tossed off the Hell in A Cell will forever be replayed. You won’t see many WWE montages without the clip of Mick Foley’s alter ego, Mankind, falling to his doom and crashing into the Spanish announce table.
It is the single most viewed clip of wrestling footage ever to exist.
Although these spots were legendary the match is actually anything but. It was held at King of the Ring 1998 and it was a brutal, bloody, botch-filled mess.
However, this night will no doubt be remembered for one of the most unforgettable moments in WWE history mainly because there is little chance that we will ever see something this death-defying on WWE television again.
After crashing through the announce table, WWE officials ordered that the cage be raised, with The Undertaker still on top of it as he remained in character, so that officials could get to Mick Foley and tend to him.
As the officials wheeled him away on a stretcher the match was presumed to be over. Mick Foley had other plans however. To the delight of the fans Foley jumped off the stretcher and with a mad look in his eyes he began to scale the cage to meet The Undertaker in combat again. What happened next was not a planned spot.
With the ceiling of the cage buckling under their immense weight The Undertaker chokeslammed Mick Foley as they were on top of the unforgiving steel structure.
The weight of Mick Foley and the force of the chokeslam were too much, and the section of the ceiling gave way and Foley went crashing to the mat below.
Officials stormed into the ring to his aid. The Undertaker still remained in character and took his time getting into the ring. As Foley lay on the mat motionless, The Undertaker bought time by attacking Terry Funk and others in the ring.
After being thrown 16 feet from the top of the cage not once, but twice, Mick Foley continued the match even through his excruciating pain. The match ended with The Undertaker delivering the tombstone piledriver for the win.
Even in defeat Foley was the true King of The Ring that night.
Many consider this the night Mick Foley made himself a legend and it would be hard to find an argument against a statement like that. Foley would go on to become a three-time WWF Champion and become one of the most respected veterans in WWE until his departure with the company.
This match also helped make The Undertaker appear to be one of the most unforgiving and sadistic characters in WWE at the time.
This is the spot that all other spots are compared against. In my mind it will never be topped.
No. 3: Hulk Hogan Bodyslams Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania III
This is the defining Wrestlemania moment. When Hulk Hogan picked up the 7’4, 500-pound Andre the Giant and scoop-slammed him on the mat the entire wrestling world stood in awe.
Hulk Hogan than gave Andre the running leg drop to finish the match and retain the WWF Championship and walk out of Wrestlemania III, the biggest event in WWE history, as one of only a handful of people to ever go over Andre.
The interesting thing is that Hogan was not even sure he was going to win. Early in the match Hogan attempted to slam Andre, but failed and the Giant feel on him and nearly pinned him on complete accident.
Andre was in that much pain. So much that he could have easily pinned Hogan without being able to allow Hulk room to kick out.
Hogan avoided this and managed to lift Andre the Giant as creating one of the most surreal moments in all of wrestling history.
Hulk Hogan would go down in history as a man who helped launch WWE on a national scale and popularize the business and integrate it into popular culture.
“Hulkamania” was launched. Ever since this Vince McMahon has since to make Hulk Hogan over and over again. He has always wanted to have one guy that stood above the rest. Right now it could be said that John Cena was this person.
Hulk Hogan is a legend and at the time he was a larger than life individual that appealed to kids. He was marketable and his feats of strength truly amazed fans the world over, feats such as picking up a 500-pound Giant.
Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant will be forever linked to one another due to the unforgettable moment that they created on March 29, 1987.
Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat certainly had the better match, but even the most cynic and snooty wrestling fan will admit that the impact of Hogan and Andre’s match is still being felt to this day.
No. 2: Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero Fulfill Their Wildest Dreams
The meaning of moments in time can change over the passing of years. This is a perfect example of that.
Almost seven years ago Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero fulfilled their lifelong dreams and became World Champions on one of the biggest nights in pro wrestling history.
After Benoit made the World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, tap out to the crippler Cross-face he could hardly contain his sense of fulfillment and let his passion pour out of him. You could feel his emotion.
As he continued to pose with the World Heavyweight Championship, one of Chris Benoit’s lifelong friends slipped into the ring.
Benoit turned around and saw the WWE Champion, Eddie Guerrero, standing across from him in the ring. Both men embraced and began to weep with joy as they realized that after 20 years of giving everything that they had and still not getting what they deserved, that they had finally reached the top of the mountain and they did it together on the 20th anniversary of Wrestlemania.
This was a defining moment in the history of professional wrestling.
Eddie Guerrero would pass away in 2005, on my 13th birthday, due to heart failure. The sudden and unexpected death of Eddie Guerrero made this moment at Wrestlemania XX even more special and memorable as this was considered the brightest memory in the storied career of Guerrero, but what happened next changed everything…
Fast forward to late June 2007.
Chris Benoit forever changed the way the world would look at his legacy in the ring. Chris Benoit murdered his wife Nancy Benoit, his young son Daniel Benoit, and finally took his own life. This was in my opinion one of the darkest times in the history of WWE.
After the facts of the murder-suicide became known, WWE did what they thought they had to do and removed all mention of Benoit from every television program, DVD, and website. To this day they more or less pretend that Chris Benoit does not exist.
I take issue with that.
The way Benoit left this world will no doubt forever leave a stain on his legacy, but I refuse to ignore his contributions to the world of pro wrestling. I refuse to forget moments like this.
I can never forget the moment Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero stood in the ring and reached the pinnacle of their careers together.
It was a moment that will be forever frozen in time and I can’t think of two guys who deserved it more.
Please, despite WWE’s attempts and all that has happened, don’t forget this moment.
This is why we are wrestling fans. Moments like this define professional wrestling. Don’t let them slip away…
No. 1: The Montreal Screwjob
We end this edition of the Pro Wrestling Countdown the same way we started it. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Earl Hebner and Vince McMahon. Survivor Series and Montreal. All of these people and places will be forever linked to one night in history.
November 9, 1997.
No other night in wrestling history had as much impact as this cold November night in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Bret Hart was planning on leaving for WCW. The problem was that he was still the WWF Champion. The match was scheduled to end in a disqualification when DX and The Hart Foundation would enter the ring and get involved in the match.
After this Bret Hart was suppose to come out on Monday Night Raw and surrender the WWF Championship and leave the WWE with his head in the air.
However, this is not what happened and the chain of events lead to one of the most publicized real life rivalries the wrestling world has ever seen.
Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart had fantastic matches and no one expected their match at the 1997 Survivor Series to be any different as the two men never gave the fans anything but 100 percent.
However about 12 minutes into the scheduled match Shawn Michaels locked Bret Hart into his own signature maneuver, the sharpshooter. Bret was supposed to reverse the move and lock in the sharpshooter of his own.
After this I believe that DX was to come and attack Hart ending the match in a DQ and promote the Hart Foundation to come down. The PPV was supposed to end with the two groups brawling throughout the ringside area.
This is all according to the documentary film that was being filmed at the time of the Montreal Screwjob; Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows.
These events also did not take place. Instead of reversing his signature maneuver Shawn Michaels held Hart in the sharpshooter long enough for Hebner to call for the bell.
Shawn was trying to slip out of the ring, but Hart was still trying to reverse the move as he still had not realized what had happened.
When Hart finally understood what had taken place he was infuriated. He spat on Vince McMahon, tore apart the ringside are, and wrote the letters “WCW” in the air.
It is the most controversial moment in the history of WWE. The events of this night caused Bret Hart to stay away from the WWE for over a decade.
The tension and conflict was finally settle when Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 and we got a conclusion to this 13-year stink after Bret inducted his father, Stu Hart, in 2010.
Many of the moments talked about on this Countdown are unforgettable, but no other night in pro wrestling history has been talked about or debated as the Montreal Screwjob.
Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart would finally settle their 15-year long grudge in 2010 finally closing this long real life rivalry.
This story finally has an end, and people can now stop debating and arguing now. The debate has been put to rest, and Shawn and Bret can live in retirement knowing that they left nothing unsaid and have no regrets.
I’m sure they’re tons of moments I did not mention. So be sure to leave a comment below telling me and the readers what you think are the most unforgettable moments in pro wrestling history.
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