Matt Bishop’s Mania Moments will take a look at the top 28 moments in WrestleMania history as we lead up to WrestleMania 28 on April 1 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
No. 6 – A star is born
The event: WrestleMania 13
Where: Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Ill.
The moment: Austin refuses to submit
After their riveting match at the 1996 Survivor Series, Bret Hart and Steve Austin were going to have to do something to top it. They did just that in their Submission Match at WrestleMania 13. With UFC star Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee, these two beat each other from pillar to post and in the process, executed a rare “double turn,” as Austin became a fan favorite and Hart became a hated man, setting in motion the events for the rest of 1997 between the two.
The iconic image of this match, a bloodied Austin screaming in pain from the Sharpshooter but refusing to submit, lives to this day. Hart picked up the win when Austin passed out, but it was Austin who was on the inside track to superstardom, mainly due to this match, which ranks as one of the best in WWE history.
No. 5 – Steamboat, Savage steal show
The event: WrestleMania III
Where: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.
The moment: Steamboat captures IC title in classic
Although all the focus of WrestleMania III was on the main event, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy “Macho Man” Savage set the standard for WrestleManias to come with their classic encounter.
A technical masterpiece between two athletes in their prime, Steamboat and Savage set the record crowd inside the Silverdome on fire with their grace and athleticism in a dramatic match that ended when Steamboat caught Savage in a small package to win the Intercontinental Championship.
This match was influential for scores of young wrestlers who looked at this match as the apex.
No. 4 – Hogan, Rock electrify Toronto
The event: WrestleMania X-8
Where: SkyDome, Toronto
The moment: Hulkamania runs wild again
WrestleMania X-8 marked Hulk Hogan’s first WrestleMania in nearly a decade after running off to WCW in 1994. The rabid fans inside SkyDome that night made for one of the ultimate WrestleMania moments, transforming what was probably going to be an average match at best into an all-time great WrestleMania moment.
“We’ll never see Tyson and Ali, we’ll never see Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, but we are going to get to witness The Rock and the Hulk,” Jerry Lawler noted.
Hogan entered to a thunderous ovation despite being aligned with the hated nWo.
The two locked up in the center of the ring and Hogan shoved Rock back and posed and the place exploded. Hogan grabbed a side headlock and The Rock pushed him into the ropes, only to be shoulder tackled to the canvas. Hogan posed again and the crowd got even louder. Rock’s first bit of offense was met with thunderous boos and that’s how it went: Everything Hogan did was beloved, everything Rock did was hated.
Rock would gain the advantage and hit the Rock Bottom, but Hogan would kick out and two and started to Hulk Up and the roof might’ve blown off the stadium at that point. With the fans getting louder and louder, Hogan would hit his signature three punches and the big boot.
“The end could be near for The Rock at WrestleMania 18,” Jim Ross described as Hogan hit the ropes for the famous leg drop. “The leg drop! He beat Andre the Giant with that move! The leg is hooked and Oh My God, my God The Rock kicked out!”
Hogan would hit another big boot and go for the leg drop yet again, but Rock moved, lined Hogan up and hit the Rock Bottom and followed with The People’s Elbow for the pin.
“That was a match for the ages,” Ross said. “What an emotional ride!”
After the match, Hogan would be attacked by his nWo mates Scott Hall and Kevin Nash only to be saved by The Rock, who then insisted Hogan pose for the nearly 70,000 Hulkamaniacs in attendance.
A match for the ages.
dNo. 3 – The Streak
The event: Various
Where: North America
The moment: The Undertaker, 19-0
It all started in 1991. Here we are in 2012 and The Undertaker is going for his 20th straight WrestleMania win. These days, The Streak has taken on a life of its own as its grown larger. Not only has it progressed, but the quality of matches the Undertaker is having during this most-recent stretch is the highest of his career. His match with Batista started it at WrestleMania 23 in 2007 and since, The Undertaker has had great match after great match at WrestleMania.
These days, The Streak is something truly special, even in a world of predetermined outcomes. It speaks for itself.
No. 2 – Greatness personified
The events: WrestleMania 25, WrestleMania 26
Where: Reliant Stadium (Houston), University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
The moment: Undertaker, HBK compete in two battles for the ages
It’s one thing to have one of the greatest matches in WWE history, it’s another to have two and it’s completely another to have it with the same person on the biggest, most pressure-filled stage there is: WrestleMania.
When The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels met at WrestleMania 25 in 2009, they stole the show, engaging in a technical battle that proved, if there was ever any possible doubt, why Michaels will forever be “Mr. WrestleMania.” These two gave it all. This was the surefire Match of the Year and should be near the top of any list of matches you tell a new fan to watch.
The match featured one of the greatest near-falls in modern history. Undertaker hit the Tombstone on Michaels and everyone in the crowd thought that was it. But when Michaels kicked out at the last second, both the fans and the announce team lost it.
“Oh my God! Michaels caught! Shawn is caught! Tombstone! Tombstone! My God Michaels got caught! Tombstone! The count,” Jim Ross exclaimed as Undertaker went for the cover.
Michael Cole: “And a kick out!”
Ross: “I am not believing this!”
Cole: “What on Earth?!”
Ross: “I just had an out-of-body experience!”
The Undertaker would push The Streak to 17-0 with another Tombstone later, so how do you follow that the next year?
Well, you make it a Streak vs. Career match. And you put it in its rightful spot: The main event.
With Michaels’ long and storied career on the line, the two brought it yet again in a match that had to be won by pinfall or submission. Jerry Lawler put it best as Michaels was in the ring awaiting The Undertaker, noting, “I gotta tell you, every fan I’ve run into this week has told me they are here to see this match: Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.”
Again, Michaels managed to kick out of the Tombstone, much to the delight of the large crowd. HBK, though, didn’t have much left. He pulled himself up on the Undertaker and made the throat slash gesture and slapped him in the face. This did not please the Dead Man, who hit a super, jumping Tombstone that ended Michaels’ incredible career.
As far as WrestleMania matches go, it is going to be hard-pressed for anyone to top these two.
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Hogan readies The Rock for a smackdown at WrestleMania 18 in Toronto. Photo by Mark O’Neill, Toronto Sun