The 5 Most Enduring Scenes in WWE History
The premise of this article is simple. If I were to create a video promo for a complete newcomer to the WWE, to sum up the WWE's most high-profile and definitive moments using only 5 matches, what would they be?
There are literally dozens of truly exceptional matches in the history of the WWE; however, there are those rare ones who create moments that truly define the company.
Moments that we haven't seen anywhere else, and are unlikely to witness again.
There's a sense of the extraordinary in these moments; they aren't just matches, they're emotive stories that are landmarks in the WWE's history.
These are not the greatest matches in the company's history, but arguably the most memorable for often a single scene that has left an undeniable impact on the company.
5: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels: WrestleMania X
In the match many still regard as the greatest ladder match in the history of the WWE, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels stole the show. Though it is often mistaken as being the first ladder match in the company's history, there was one other before it.
However, what sets this match apart from so many others was the innovative use of the ladder, which in 1994 was still a fresh and exciting concept in the industry.
We had not witnessed the likes of ECW, and hardcore wrestling was just around the corner, but this particular match was almost like lighting the fuse for what was to come in the industry.
The ladder was not merely a prop to end the match, it was a weapon, an object to attack with, as well as an extension of the turnbuckles to springboard from.
This match may have highly choreographed spots, and it may have been a gimmick, but unlike some truly awful matches (Punjabi Prison, for example) this single match helped to redefine the entertainment aspect of pro-wrestling and rejuvenate a slightly stale sport.
The real beauty of this match is that the prize was the Intercontinental championship. Whilst Cody Rhodes is apparently doing his best to bring some prestige back to the belt, until he actually defends the title in matches that really keep the crowd on the edge of their seats, he won't succeed. This match was a battle, and rightly goes down in history as one of the finest matches the WWE ever booked.
Though there are plenty of great spots within this match, Shawn Michaels' splash off the top of the ladder is the enduring image in my opinion. By some of the aerial stunts we've seen since this match, it is certainly tame in comparison, but there are few high-flying moves that have been featured in video packages as much as this.
4: Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold: WrestleMania XIII
At WrestleMania XIII, Bret Hart and Stone Cold gave us one of the most enduring images that the company and audience has witnessed. The beauty of the match was that it was a well paced bout that had contrasting styles playing off against each other, yet the action told a story.
Hart at times adopted a hardcore and brawler strategy, whilst Austin used a few more technical moves than we were used to seeing from him.
With Ken Shamrock as the referee, there was an edge to the competition, as flaunting the rules would potentially hurt a lot more than if Earl Hebner were calling proceedings.
Bret Hart never did much for me personally; I admire his skill as a technician, and I've loved watching so many of his matches. However, his character always felt too contrived and ultimately dull to me.
Stone Cold, however, was the complete opposite; he always feels fresh, even 15 years after first breakout year, even a decade after the Attitude Era. This match almost feels like a passing of the torch, as Bret Hart did leave the WWE within the year, and the Attitude Era ran riot with Stone Cold at the helm.
The scene that steals the show is the ending, Bret Hart refusing to break the sharpshooter until Austin taps. In the end, Austin refuses to tap, and passes out from the pain of the hold.
It's still noted as one of those rare moments that switches the audience's opinion completely, as Bret Hart turned from face to heel, and Austin became the fan favourite.
3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant: WrestleMania III
This may well be one of the most over-rated matches of all time in terms of the wrestler's abilities, however it still remains of the single greatest moments in the history of sports entertainment.
This match created the icon of Hulk Hogan, it pushed Hulkamania into the stratosphere and was the catalyst for creating a billion-dollar empire for Vincent K. McMahon
The build up to this match is amongst the best ever with Hogan being the underdog against the insane 15-year undefeated streak Andre held; former friends who turned into enemies as Andre's jealousy of Hogan's growing popularity caused him to attack his former friend.
The stage was set for what is still considered one of the most anticipated matches in the history of the business.
Andre at this stage of his career was huge, and he knew that he was winding down. In one of the more humble moments of any superstar's career, he put over Hogan in the grandest manner on the grandest stage of them all.
The Slam Heard Around The World is still one of the definitive moments in the entire history of pro-wrestling, and rightly so, as it helped to create an empire.
2: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels: WrestleMania XII
I did consider whether the Montreal Screwjob deserved a place on this list, however I do feel that this match was a much better match, and the ending is memorable for the right reasons.
Say what you will about the ego that HBK dragged around during the first half of his career, his character connected with the fans in a way that few others ever have or will.
We as fans can look back and see a career of tremendous highs and lows, one that is littered with fantastic matches, feuds, promos and just great moments.
This for me is not his best match, but the presentation of the action from the entrance to the final bell still astounds me. This is where the WWE seem to lack creativity in the current product. Entrances at PPV's, should occasionally be over the top for specific feuds or superstars who are just insanely cheered or booed.
Whilst the production of The Undertaker entrances, for example, are usually incredible at WrestleMania, this in many respects is so simple, but it works because it's excessive yet completely fits the character of HBK in the moment.
The Ironman match is very rare, with only six being fought in the history of the WWE. This one was the first, and I doubt that there would ever be two better candidates to face off in this type of match up ever again.
What is still special about this match is that it ended 1-0 in sudden death. There were no cheap falls, cheap submissions or DQ's, this was simply an outstanding match up.
What this entire match personified in a way that few others can compare with, is the passion for the business. It combined technical excellence, emotion, the most competitive rivalry in the history of the company, showmanship and two of the very best at their craft.
We've had matches as good as this, we've had feuds that can match it, maybe even wrestlers as talented as both Bret Hart and HBK, but the overall end product in this match relied on their passion for the sport and their natural in-ring chemistry.
The closing moments of the show, when Shawn Michaels realised his boyhood dream shows the world what being world champion should mean to the winner. Many critics may argue that in today's product, the titles significance is lacking, that the belt is not as prestigious anymore.
HBK showed more than anyone I can remember just what it meant to him on that night, and that image endures to this day.
1: Undertaker vs. Mankind: King of the Ring 1998
For me, there is no moment in the entire history of pro-wrestling that compares to the two falls that Mankind took in arguably the most memorable match in the history of the WWE.
This match for many fans has inevitably set the standard for Hell in a Cell matches, and rightly so. The elements of the completely over-the-top action, the exquisite commentary by Jim Ross and the emotion that the fans invested into every moment of this match makes it uniquely special.
Whilst I would strongly suggest that this is not the blueprint for what the WWE has ever stood for, this shows what the WWE has done arguably better than any other sports entertainment business ever in existence.
The audience is suspended in disbelief when Mick Foley slams through that table. Edge summed up the wrestling aspect of the WWE when in his retirement speech he said 'A lot of people think that the WWE doesn't hurt, that what we do is maybe somewhat smoke and mirrors, and I wish that were true...anybody who's laced up a pair of boots, they know that's not the case.'
We know that the WWE is scripted, that a creative team work on idea's for rivalries, feuds, match endings, promos, etc. What people forget is that covers the element of entertainment.
The sport itself has its consequences for each and every performer who steps in the ring. Whether it's cuts and bruises, broken bones, career-threatening injuries or the most unfortunate ones that leave the wrestler unable to walk or even dead, pro-wrestling as a sport is anything but fake.
What I find with people who are not fans is that they misunderstand the drama and passion involved in the industry, it runs right through the fans and each man and woman involved in the production, from the cameraman to the wrestlers.
Watching Foley take a 20-foot dive through a table highlights the incredible danger that the wrestlers will put themselves through. As far as stealing the show goes, I doubt anything will ever compare with the scenes from this match.
There are some iconic moments that I've left off due to my choices, and here are three that I debated including:
Edge's spear to Jeff Hardy at WM17 (because these guys were barely mid-carders at the time, yet their match arguably stole to show at one of the best WrestleManias ever)
Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero's celebration at WM20 (this single scene illustrates the passion of two of the most talented wrestlers of their generation, and what the peak of their journey meant to them)
Kane's debut at Badd Blood '97 (Kane's debut is for me the pinnacle of creative writing for a feud as the build up was intense and didn't let the fans down when it came, even though it interrupted one of the greatest matches ever)