The Five Greatest Moments in Wrestlemania History
When Vince McMahon envisioned and then executed the first Wrestlemania event in 1985, even he could not have imagined how big this event would get. The first Wrestlemania took place on March 31st, 1985, at Madison Square Garden. Today, Wrestlemania is a full tilt entertainment event featuring the most popular wrestlers, celebrity interaction, live performances by mainstream rock acts and an unbelievable fireworks display. This year Wrestlemania will celebrate its 31st year. I thought it would be great to look back on the last 30 years and relieve the five greatest moments in Wrestlemania history.
Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant
It's been almost 25 years since the "Immortal" Hulk Hogan slammed the 500 lb Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3. The year was 1987 and the '80s wrestling boom was in full swing. Hulk Hogan was becoming a household name through his appearances in "Rocky 3," and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. In addition, he regularly made the talk show rounds to promote the WWE. Andre the Giant, arguably the biggest name in the sport before Hulk Hogan, was on his way out. He was in a lot of pain due to his battle with Acromegaly, and his wrestling days were numbered. The two most popular wrestlers of the 1980s were the main event at Wrestlemania three in front of over 93,000 fansat the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. After a hard fought battle, Hulk Hogan began to "hulk-up" and body slammed the dazed giant. Hogan followed the slam up with his giant legdrop to get the pin and retain his championship. In my opinion, it is the greatest moment in the history of Wrestlemania.
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
Wrestlemania 14, which took place at the Fleetcenter in Boston in 1998, was the site of the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin versus Shawn Michaels main event. But overshadowing the actual match was the appearance of Mike Tyson as the "special outside enforcer." Austin and the former WBF Heavyweight Champion of the world has made national headlines earlier in the year as the two scuffled on an episode of Monday Night Raw. But it was at Wrestlemania when Tyson actually stepped in the ring and got physical. After Austin soundly defeated Michaels, Michaels got in the face of the champ. Tyson, who is known as having a short temper, landed a fierce right hand to the face of the departing Shawn Michaels. The crowd erupted as Austin and Tyson celebrated the victory.
Shawn Michaels Retires the Nature Boy
Many years ago, the WWE started referring to their product as "sports entertainment." And the match between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 24 is a perfect example of "sports entertainment." Ric Flair, who was 58 years old, was wrestling Shawn Michaels to prove to himself that he was still relevant in wrestling. However, at this point, Flair's in ring ability had deteriorated a lot since his run as Heavyweight Champion of the world. The match between Michaels and Flair was decent, but what made the bout an epic encounter was the story. The story of the old man trying to prove he has still got it, and Shawn Michaels, a childhood fan of Flair, having to "put down" his hero. The storyline was similar to "Old Yella." At the end of the match, Flair starts to get up from the mat, tears in his eyes and his fists up. Wearily, Flair begs Michaels to continue to fight him. Michaels sadly looks at Flair, mouths "I love you," and then kicks his hero in the face, ultimately ending his career. It was as emotional as it was satisfying.
Flying From the Rafters
One of the first signs that Wrestlemania was turning more into an entertainment event than a wrestling event was at Wrestlemania 12. The main event was Shawn Michaels versus Bret "Hitman" Hart for the WWF Heavyweight Championship. As the "Heartbreak Kids" theme music blared over the loudspeaker, the crowd looked towards the entrance way. Michaels never appeared. Instead, he came flying down on a zipline from atop the arena. He flew across the thousands of fans in attendance, and eventually landed in the middle of the ring. It was an incredible performance and a sign of things to come at future Wrestlemanias.
Icon vs Icon
When Hulk Hogan returned to the WWF after eight years, the wrestling fans were nostalgic. Despite Hogan coming into the company as a heel, he was still getting mixed reactions from crowds. But nobody could have predicted just how the nostalgia for Hulk Hogan was going to affect his match with The Rock at Wrestlemania 18. When the two wrestlers entered the arena, the over 65,000 fans were overwhelmingly behind Hulk Hogan. They weren't just behind Hogan, they were stark raving mad for the "Immortal" Hulk Hogan. In fact, The Rock, who was the most popular wrestler at the time, was vehemently booed every time he got some offense. The commentators did not know how to react, and in an attempt to salvage The Rock's popularity, they referred to the Toronto crowd as "bizarre." The crowd reaction for Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18 was, in my opinion, one of the most genuine and rabid crowds ever. It was their crowd reaction to Hulk Hogan that made the Icon versus Icon match at Wrestlemania 18 one of the greatest moments in Wrestlemania history.
Throughout it's rich and illustrious history, Wrestlemania has been filled with many great moments. But these five moments stand out more than the rest. These five greatest moments in Wrestlemania history exemplify what the event is all about. It's about drama and pageantry. It's just as much about showmanship as it is about in ring action. It's Wrestlemania. The greatest show on earth.