Pop-Ed: Favorite Wrestlemania Moments & Matches

Wrestlemania. The Showcase of the Immortals. The Grand Daddy of Them All. For wrestling fans this is it for us — this is our Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammys, World Series and Stanley Cup all rolled into one epic, over the top, grandiose ball of electrifying awesomeness.

This year marks Wrestlemania 30, a most triumphant anniversary. So Pop-Break looked to its staff as well as its friends in the world of journalism and music to give their favorite memories of ‘Mania. A moment that meant something to them, that made them forget this is “sports entertainment,” that made them believe again.

Bill Bodkin (Editor-in-Chief — Pop-Break.com): I have seen many of the Wrestlemania months, even years after they aired: on tape, DVD and YouTube clip. To me, there’s some great moments in these events, but I want to focus on a moment from a ‘Mania I actually ordered, which was a rarity in my house since let’s face it, this is a damn expensive PPV.

It was Wrestlemania 18, a pay-per-view that for all intents and purposes, kinda sucked. It didn’t hold a candle to the amazing Wrestlemania X-7 which from top to bottom might’ve been the best ‘Mania of all time. Even Test vs. Eddie Guerrero was amazing! I digress.

This ‘Mania featured the famed Rock vs. Hulk Hogan dream match. Now if you ask me who won or what happened in the match, I couldn’t tell you. But it was the opening moments of the match that I will never forget. It was a simple stare down between two of the biggest icons in sports entertainment and the crowd hijacked the show. You can talk about the “RAW after ‘Mania” in Jersey, The Yes Movement, the 2014 Rumble, RAW in Chicago (2014) all you want, but this was the definitive moment of the crowd dictating the course of a show.

In storyline, Vince McMahon brought back Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash aka The New World Order, in order to destroy the WWE because Ric Flair had come in and taken over the shares “sold off” by Stephanie and Shane McMahon after the Invasion angle tanked. In the ‘Mania match Hogan was booked as the heel and Rock, the ultimate face. But that crowd would not boo Hogan even if there lives depended on it. As Hogan and Rock locked eyes the crowded absolutely exploded with chants for Hogan. Yes, there were Rock chants by the Hulkamaniacs drowned out everything, including the commentary. I had never seen anything like that — crowds always chanted who was supposed to be chanted for. Never had I heard a heel been so beloved by the audience. But this was Hulk Hogan, who despite garnering such a terrible reputation in WCW, was welcomed like the prodigal sun returned in WWE. In fact, it seemed like the two wrestlers themselves were stunned to hear Hogan so heavily cheered and The Rock boo-ed any time he mounted offense against Hogan.

This moment gave me chills throughout the match. It was awe-inspiring. Never had I nor my dad, a fan of wrestling for 40 years at the time had ever experienced. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

Jake Szufnarowski (Owner, Promoter — Rocks Off): There’s no competition when it comes to my favorite Wrestlemania moment. It was the main event of Wrestlemania XX. The three way dance between Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chris Benoit. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Vince McMahon preferred “genetic freaks” over guys who could actually, you know, wrestle. It took the mad genius of Paul Heyman to champion guys like Eddie Guererro, Dean Malenko and Benoit back in ECW… guys that got poached by WCW and eventually ended up in WWE. But even though they made the big time, nobody every thought Vince would let them be champions… But that’s exactly what happened… The inmates were promoted to running the damn asylum!

I paid $700 for two tickets to Wrestlemania XX at MSG because, well, I’m insane, and the smart mark’s money said that Chris Benoit was going to win the World Heavyweight Championship in his 3 way match with Shawn Michaels and Triple H in the main event, and well, me and my buddy Backyard Bill just had to be there to see it with my own two eyes. It was a proverbial changing of the guard, with Eddie Guerrero already holding the WWE Championship, it signified that guys who actually knew how to WRESTLE, and not just lift weights, were being thrust into the main roles of the WWE.

The match turned out to be an instant 5 star classic. It was full of false finishes and classic rassling misdirection. About 15 minutes into the match a bloodied Shawn Michaels and Triple H duplexed Chris Benoit throughout the spanish announce table, and left he in a crumpled heap while Jerry “The King” Lawler screamed “They just took Chris Benoit out of the Equation!! This match is now down to Shawn and H!” Which of course any seasoned wrestling fan took as foreshadowing that Benoit would be back. And come back he did. When he finally rose from the dead, he tossed Michaels over the top rope and attacked HHH. He reversed HHH’s signature finishing move the Pedigree not once, but TWICE. The 2nd time he turned it into the dreaded Crippler Crossface, and dragged HHHH into the middle of the ring, where after putting up a valiant fight, he finally tapped out. Which was a HUGE deal because HHH never loses clean to ANYONE, so to do it a guy that wash;t even 6 feet tall was a real turning point in the WWE. After Benoit was awarded the title, his real life best friend, and WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero came to the ring to celebrate with him. Two of the greatest WRESTLERS int he world were standing in the center of MSG holding the two most important title belts in Wrestling while red, white and blue confetti streamed from the ceiling. I cried more than a little.

Bob “Bobman” Williams (Drummer – Vextion): I’ve had the opportunity to go to 2 Wrestlemanias.

The first was in Detroit years ago, and my buddy and I saw PPV open with the Money in Bank match. My favorite superstar at the time, Jeff Hardy came out first and opened the show with his entrance and pyros. During the match he jumped from a tall ladder through another ladder with Edge on top of it. It was pretty surreal. Then Orton hit an RKO off a ladder and that was pretty epic.

Last year, at Metlife Stadium the match between The Undertaker and CM Punk was pretty incredible and definitely stole the show. From Punk’s entrance with a live performance from Living Colour of “Cult of Personality” to the Dead Man’s entrance to the match itself, and the theatrics were all very cool to see live. My favorite part of the night (aside from Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage dressed fans having a “Match” in the parking lot) was Punk having Taker in the Anaconda Vice I believe and the Phenom just sitting up and Grabbing Punk’s throat all choke-slam like. The look on both competitors faces were priceless and really made this match fun.

Nick Porcaro (Senior Writer, Chief Designer — Pop-Break.com): I was a child of the Attitude Era, but as I grew up the spotlight on WWE faded and my attention turned elsewhere, at least until WrestleMania 29 was booked for MetLife Stadium last year. Fellow Pop-Break scribe Anthony Toto and I couldn’t have been more excited to relive our youth and watch some good old-fashioned wrasslin’. The show was a certified bust—aside from some silly tailgating and that epic CM Punk / Undertaker match—but it sparked a new found interest in me. Hell, I’m even subscribed to the (admittedly awesome) WWE Network now.

For all my fandom back in the day I don’t think I ever actually paid to watch a Pay-Per-View, so my experience with WrestleMania matches is slim, but I remember renting a cassette tape of WrestleMania XIV from Blockbuster on a rainy day vacationing in Hilton Head. As an avid Stone Cold follower I was thrilled to see him take the win over Shawn Michaels in a back-and-forth match loaded with outside interference. Who can forget Mike Tyson’s heel-face turn as guest referee and D-Generation X’s enforcer?

Before I went to WrestleMania 29, however, I watched WrestleMania XXVIII at a bar in Philly at the request of a friend. Considering Cena’s less-than-favorable reception among the Internet wrestling community, I remember being rather impressed by his “once in a lifetime” match with The Rock. The two put on a heck of a show and pretty much everyone in the bar was on the edge of their seat. I can’t say the same about last year’s half-baked repeat effort, but sometimes that’s how it goes.

As for this year, I’m looking forward to seeing fan favorite Daniel Bryan overcome adversity and finally get his WrestleMania moment. I want to see Bray Wyatt get a clean win over John Cena. And you can’t go wrong with the high-flying dynamite of The Shield up against the Attitude Era edge of the New Age Outlaws and Kane. This should be a great card.

Should be.

Adam Bird (Lead Singer – Those Mockingbirds): My favorite Wrestlemania moment is Shawn Michaels mouthing the words “I’m sorry” to Ric Flair just before “putting him down” like an old sick dog, with a super kick, and ending his incredible career.

Brian Solomon (Author, Owner of Vault of Horror.com):

As corny as it may sound, the single most emotional WrestleMania moment for me would have to be the reunion of Randy Savage and Elizabeth at WrestleMania VII. When she stepped in to stop Sensational Sherri and physically protect Savage, the very man who had put her in harm’s way so many times, and had abandoned her for a lesser woman, it took wrestling to a place it rarely goes: genuine pathos. Wrestling usually deals in simple, easy emotions, and this was such a complex and satisfying moment from a storytelling perspective. Savage’s combination of shock and shame led to one of the most organic face turns I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not embarrassed to say that I got a little misty watching it unfold. And I’ve never forgotten it since.

El Diablo (Drummer — The Mystery Men): “In the early days of Erestlemania, there is one performer that sticks out in my mind as a guy who could deliver an amazing performance no matter who he faced or where on the card his matches landed. That one man has been called many things over the years, but we still call him “The Excellence of Execution” and “The Best there Is, Was & Ever Will Be” Bret “The Hitman” Hart. From Getting tossed by Andre the Giant at the Wrestlemania 2 battle royal featuring NFL stars William “Refrigerator” Perry & Bill Fralic all the way through his unforgettable WM 13 match with Steve Austin that unofficially launched the Attitude era, Bret Hart has shown a versatility in his performances year after year that is completely unheard of in today’s hot-shot, crash TV, “lets write the biggest show of the year three weeks before it happens” era. Bret Hart was a main event player for the greater part of the 1990s as a whole & always delivered in that “Big Match” spot on the card. Yes he had some Huge, Main events at the big dance, (WM 10 vs Owen and Yokozuna in the same night, the IronMan at WM 12, I-Quit w/ Ausin at WM 13) but its his lesser talked about matches that really made the shows that much better on a whole for me.

A great wrestler is generally regarded as a Talent who can go out there with Anyone and deliver a stellar performance. Whether it be squashing The Bolsheviks in a 10 second squash in a metaphoric display of patriotism with his Hart Foundation tag partner Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Being used as a political pawn by the office at WM XI when Hulk Hogan walked away with “his belt” because they thought it was “best for business” or stealing the show in a match not given much pre-show hype to vs. Roddy Piper at WM8 for the Intercontinental Title when it meant something, Bret Hart has always put in an Amazing performance at Wrestlemania and made sure that the world W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G was a part of the biggest “Sports Entertainment” show of the year. Even when he returned all those years later after he had suffered a stroke & finally buried the hatchet with Vince McMahon to come back & put on a special attraction Street Fight vs the owner of the Evil Empire against the man who screwed him all those years ago, Bret did all he physically could to make that match a memorable special attraction. Of Course, at that point his work rate couldn’t possibly be at the pinnacle that it once was, but they still made it special through the build to the match & making the event a family affair with a third generation of the Hart family legacy composed of David Hart Smith, Tyson Kidd & Natalya getting involved & cementing the Hart name in Wrestlemania history for generations to come”

Honorable mention goes to Rey Mysterio winning the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania 22, entering the arena to P.O.D. playing his theme song and wearing an elaborate Aztec style headdress to the ring in victory in a Triple threat match over Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle & “Cowboy” Bob Orton’s Son, “The Walking Wellness Violation” Randall Keith Orton. Rey is one of the all-time-greats in the industry who has earned his legendary status & is a 1st ballot Hall of Famer when he does decide to retire on his own terms.

Alex Biese (Pop Culture & Entertainment Reporter, The Asbury Park Press): I could go on all day about my favorite WrestleMania moments. But there’s only one that changed my outlook on life in general.

Much of my early wrestling fandom was through research. Following the red-blooded, All-American Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter main event at 1991’s WrestleMania VII, I was hooked. I was 7 at the time, and already a big ol’ nerd, so I decided to learn up on as much of the history of this marvelous sport as I could get my hands on.

This ravenous study of the squared circle resulted in me commandeering all of my uncle’s video tapes from the sport’s past. I watched them all several times, with some of the favorites (WrestleManias III and V, Survivor Series 2, the inaugural Summer Slam) getting so much play in the family VCR that I damn near wore out the magnetic tapes.

Whatever I couldn’t get from my uncle’s video tape collection, I rented repeatedly from the local video store. There were the early glory days of the first ‘Manias, the Mega Powers at the height of their, well, powers in WrestleMania IV and the brutality of Hogan vs. Savage in V.

But, there was one ‘Mania I steadfastly refused to watch: WrestleMania VI.

Why? Simple: the good guy lost. I knew, for a fact, that Hulk Hogan, the greatest hero in the history of the business (or so I thought as a 7-year-old), lost to the Ultimate Warrior, who walked out of the ring with both the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Championship belts.

I couldn’t bare to watch it. It was almost as if, in my kid brain, I thought that if I never saw it, that would mean it never happened.

This went on for months. ‘Manias III, IV, V and VII played on loop, interspersed with various Survivor Series and Summer Slam installments. Never VI. Anything but that.

Eventually, my mother talked me into renting VI. Maybe she was just tired of hearing Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, Vince McMahon and the rest call the same matches time and again. But, the main event of WrestleMania VII changed how I saw the world.

You see, sometimes, the good guys lose. It’s a lesson I had to learn, something I had to come to terms with eventually. And when they do lose, it’s not the end of the world.

But, there’s also something to be learned in the way that Hogan loses. Sure, the Warrior’s big splash is a ridiculous move to lose to (almost as weak, in hindsight, as the Hogan leg drop). But Hogan, tears in his eyes, loses with class. He hands his belt to the Warrior, and shakes the man’s hand. In that moment, Hogan taught me that there can be grace in defeat.

And of course, life goes on. By the very next WrestleMania, the one that got me hooked on the business in the first place, Hogan would defeat Sgt. Slaughter and regain the title.

Christian Wagner (Social Media Manager — Pirates Press, Staff Member – Absolute Punk): I know this could be cliche but my favorite Wrestlemania moment had to be the match between CM Punk and Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29. Besides the fact that it was my first live Wrestlemania, the buildup to this match was so unique. The death of Paul Bearer visibly affected the demeanor of Undertaker to the point of tears on a Raw. CM Punk played the classic heel by antagonizing Undertaker any way he could and at one point poured Bearer’s ashes all over himself.

The match itself was incredible. It paled in comparison to everything else on the card (although it was a lackluster card overall) but the contest was breathtaking. There was so much energy and emotion that radiated from the 80,000+ in attendance. You could feel like Undertaker was shouldering the weight of Paul Bearer’s loss during the match. It created a special vibe that could never be replicated. On top of that, it had top notch wrestling. False finishes, counters, and classic moments that will be immortalized. I would say the most memorable part of the match was when CM Punk did “Old School” on Undertaker. It was at a critical point in the match and as he was ascending to the top rope you feel the tension in the arena. The collective aura of “oh shit, he’s really going to do this” filled Metlife Stadium.

It was truly unforgettable.

Michael Dworkis (Wrestling Editor — Pop-Break.com) For a long time, I would have said the championship match between Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII was up there as my all-time favorite WrestleMania match. You had the Nature Boy himself, with Bobby Heenan and Mr. Perfect singing his praises, the self-proclaimed “Real” World Champion going up against the heart of the company, Savage in a championship match which got personal with the involvement of Miss Elizabeth. Back then, I was a kid, so those two big names alone were enough for me to be awestruck.

Except it was not the championship match which captured my attention. It was Bret Hart and Roddy Piper which did it. Two men who put everything on the line, who told a story in the ring.

Fast forward 12 years later, to the first WrestleMania I attended live. WrestleMania XX. You would think I would have cherished my early years of wrestling, but sitting there live, watching Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero hold their arms together, raised in victory. Earlier in the night, Eddie defended his WWE Championship against Kurt Angle, and to close the show, Chris Benoit defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship, by forcing The Game to submit to the crossface.

Alright, I am talking about the crazy guy who snapped. But forget it for a moment. I was there live. I watched both Benoit and Guerrero for years, stunning fans in ECW, then struggle through the mid-card of WCW while politics prevented them from ever being on top. They finally got their moments in WWE where they both broke through the glass ceiling, where it was thought only the “big guys” could ever be main event champions. I remember jumping out of my chair when Benoit locked HHH in the crossface and the crowd exploded. Then Triple H began to counter, until Benoit rolled through, and trapped the champion in the middle of the ring, and in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd, he tapped out. Benoit was the World Champion. The confetti fell, Eddie embraced his friend, as two men who few thought would never reach championship level, let alone even a Mania Main Event shattered those who underestimated them. I high-fived my friends who were with me. It was crazy, it was amazing. I could not believe how it excited me, a guy, who was working at WWE at the time could still be enthralled and enveloped by the sheer excitement erupting all over the arena. Sure, at the time I was an employee, and I was one of those who was into it for the entertainment… But on March 14, 2004, I was a fan again.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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