One of the biggest debates for the wrestling fans is: What was the greatest Wrestlemania of all time? When you think of this question, events such as Wrestlemania X, Wrestlemania X-Seven, Wrestlemania XIX and Wrestlemania 23 come instantly to mind as a perfect choice.
But there is one Wrestlemania that trumps all the rest, and that is Wrestlemania 22.
Ever since its groundbreaking debut in Madison Square Garden, Wrestlemania has had 26 editions under its name. And each one has had its own impact on wrestling, one way or another. It's an event I have come to love and anticipate greatly ever year since I got into wrestling. So when Jacob Waring announced the next CvC competition to be about the best Wrestlemania, I could not pass it up.
But you are probably wondering, why Wrestlemania 22?
Why not Wrestlemania 19, with its superior wrestling? Or Wrestlemania 3, with its absolute historic signifigance? Or Wrestlemania 23, with its absolute hype and main event matches? Or Wrestlemania 17, with its match quality and amazing build-up?
Well, simply put, Wrestlemania 22 was all of that combined. And it had one thing that truly sets it apart from any other Wrestlemania: a hot crowd.
And I'm not talking about a hot crowd for just one match. I'm talking about a hot crowd throughout the whole event. The 17,000 in attendance were absolutely crazy, and it felt like every match on the card was important to them. The small Chicago crowd completely blew out any past Wrestlemania crowd of 60,000 and more.
And not only that, the crowd was, in JR's word, "defiant." They were not out there to cheer for faces and boo heels, they were out to pull for those they wanted to win, the ones they were truly fans of, not because of their position. They cheered the likes of Carlito, Mickie and Triple H, who were all heels, while men like Cena, Trish and Rey got booed, and they pulled for Angle and RVD like crazy.
It was just unlike anything ever witnessed before. If Wrestlemania 17 had this crowd, it would've been legendary!
The atmosphere was absolutely electric because of this, and truly gave off the Attitude Era feel we all miss and hold dear to our hearts.
The tagline for this Wrestlemania was Big Time, and it certainly was. From the hype, the build-up, the crowd, to the entrances, to even the epic theme song, Wrestlemania 22 truly felt bigger than life.
The matches that this Wrestlemania held for this card were also great, as nearly every match did not disappoint in the slightest, and some of them were not short of epicness. Many matches we still remember to this day are a part of Wrestlemania 22.
The Money in the Bank Ladder match made it's return at Mania 22, featuring RVD, Matt Hardy, Ric Flair, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay and Bobby Lashely. It was able to follow up its predecessor with an amazing match, an chaotic spotfest as these six men destroyed each other, with Shelton once again the MITB MVP.
In the end, RVD was able to get the briefcase and become Mr. Money in the Bank. It was without a doubt a mark out moment for wrestling fans, as RVD finally got his moment and three months later, as a result, would finally win the big one.
Edge vs. Mick Foley stands as the greatest Hardcore match in Wrestlemania history, maybe in wrestling history. These two put on a hardcore clinic at the Allstate Arena, which was sick and insane throughout. How fitting was it that Joey Styles called this match in his Wrestlemania debut?
Edge defeated Mick Foley after spearing him through a flaming table in one of the greatest finishes in Mania history. Edge proved he was a real deal main eventer here, but as Mick Foley backed up the entrace ramp with a smile on his face, we couldn't help but happy that he finally got his Wrestlemania moment.
Trish and Mickie battled for the Women's Championship in an amazing matchup. The women in WWE today, even if it was Natalya and Beth, nor the women in TNA, could ever hope to create the magic that these two did. Leading up to this was perhaps the greatest women's storyline ever and these two women wrestled their hearts out in front of the world, with the crowd firmly in Mickie's corner.
It was the greatest women's match in Wrestlemania history and the torch was passed as Mickie became Women's Champion.
We also had the Undertaker putting the Streak on the line against Mark Henry in a Casket Match, a first for Wrestlemania. Mark Henry was a monster heel back then, a pretty good one at that, and put on a very solid power match with the Deadman. I will never forget the moment where Undertaker leaped over the ropes, cleared the casket at ringside and landed on Mark Henry on the outside.
The Phenom was able to put Mark Henry away with a Tombstone and put him in the casket, going 14-0 at Wrestlemania. If the World's Strongest Slam couldn't beat the Deadman, then no one can.
Mr. Wrestlemania, Shawn Michaels, faced Mr. McMahon in a No Holds Barred Match, but it wasn't about stealing the show. After being castrated of his dignity by McMahon, he was out for retribution. What followed was an absolutely amazing match that may have arguably stole the show. The storytelling was top notch, the raw emotion was just insane and it gave us an amazing moment where Michaels gave an elbow drop from a 20 foot ladder onto trash can-wearing McMahon through a table.
Michaels finally got his revenge as he finally delivered Sweet Chin Music to end what may have been the greatest ass-kicking of all time. McMahon finally got what was coming to him after what happened with the Montreal Screwjob, and the only thing that would've made it better was if Bret delivered that beating himself.
It was then a Triple Threat Match for the World Title between Rey, Angle and Orton. Even though it was just nine minutes, these three men put on a wrestling clinic as it was nonstop action throughout and amazing sequences. Just an awesome fast-paced match that kept me on the edge of my seat.
Rey finally won the World Title in the end, which was so well-deserved and heartwarming that even the Chicago crowd, who pulled for Angle, gave him props for the accomplishment. Rey's dreams came true and all in honor of his friend, the late, great Eddie Guerrero. Just a great, emotional moment.
Then it was the main event. John Cena and Triple H for the WWE Title. Unlike today, it was their first ever encounter that everyone wanted to see, and just watching from their entrances as the King of Kings and Chicago Gangsters, we all knew this was going to be epic!
And it damn sure was. Just an amazing match that was elevated further by the jacked up crowd, with half cheering for Cena and half cheering for HHH. It also gave us the first "Boo! Yea!" chants during trading blows that stills sticks to this day. Many near falls ensued and sledgehammers and FUs were pulled out, but in the end, Cena shocked the world when he made The Game tap out.
Heck, the crowd was so shocked, they were in total silence because of it. And it was a hot crowd!
As you can see, all the matches above, along with others, were absolutely great, were from above average to just plain awesome, and many made sure to delivere us unforgettable moments.
Not only that, but the build-up to many of these matches were amazing. Whether it was Michaels getting screwed by McMahon, Montreal Screwjob style, Mick Foley going Cactus Jack crazy for Edge and giving him a con-chair-to, the lesbian love Mickie wanted with Trish or the epic Rocky vs. Balboa that Cena and HHH gave us, it was just out of this world.
And all of this was done in a small, normal-sized arena, with just plain old wrestling fans in attendance and nothing celebrity-related involved in the event whatsoever.
Wrestlemania 22 proved that you didn't need mainstream publicity, celebrities in matches, giant-sized football stadiums, flashy light shows or big stages to make a Wrestlemania larger-than-life.
Wrestlemania 22 also showed what it meant to be a crowd for an event, as any wrestling crowd should and will always be compared to the awesomeness of the one from this epic event.
Wrestlemania 22 was the very first Wrestlemania I ever saw, so it holds a special place in my heart, but it no way makes me partial to this event, because this event is too awesome to ignore. Everything was right with this event, and everything was definitely "Big Time."
Wrestlemania 22...the greatest Wrestlemania of all time.