With WrestleMania 28 promising to bring the house down with its ‘Once in a Lifetime’ match of The Rock vs. John Cena (I’m ignoring that they’re likely to have a rematch at some point), now is as good a time as any to recount some of the greatest moments from WrestleMania’s past. Here are my personal top 5:
5: Stone Cold doesn't quit.
Going into this match Bret Hart was the babyface and Stone Cold the heel; coming out of this match Bret Hart was exiting the arena to a chorus of boos whilst Stone Cold a round of applause. Thbeene best wrestling matches are the ones where you feel like a story is being told in the ring, and none greater have been told than Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin's 'I Quit' match at WrestleMania 13.
History dictates that Bret Hart was triumphant, but it was Austin's career that benefited the most from the match, after his unwillingness to surrender to Hart's sharpshooter instantly endeared him to fans. Many cite this is as the true beginning of the Attitude Era, with Stone Cold becoming the figurehead of arguably the greatest period in WWE history.
4: Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero celebrate
Knowing what we now know about Chris Benoit it's difficult to remember just how affecting the image of him and Eddie Guerrero, two veterans of the business finally given their 'moment', standing triumphantly in the ring at WrestleMania XX was.
Seeing Benoit overcome with genuine emotion whilst grasping the World Heavyweight title would make even the largest pro wrestling cynic respect the blood, sweat and tears he had clearly put in to be given the chance to headline 'Mania. The fact that he won the title cleanly and convincingly (by making Triple H submit, no less) made the moment just that much sweeter.
3: The Undertaker retires Shawn Michaels
Many would put Shawn Michaels retiiring Ric Flair on this list, but as Flair insisted upon desecrating his legacy by shuffling his way to the TNA ring after his dignified WWE departure, I feel that Shawn Michaels' own career-ending match was more deserving of its place in the top 5.
While many had already assumed that Michaels would be defeated by The Undertaker in order to put a satisfying full stop on the end of his long and illustrious career, as Michaels kicked out of the Tombstone Piledriver more than a few opinions started to change and believe that the WWE had thrown a curveball and that Michaels could actually be the one to end Taker's 'Mania winning streak.
That wasn't meant to be, of course, but wasn't it a fun thought while it lasted?
2: Hulk Hogan body slams Andre the Giant
C'mon, you knew this was going to be on here.
Before Brock Lesnar could F5 Big Show on a whim, Hulk Hogan did the seemingly impossible by flooring the 7"4, 475lb Andre the Giant with his signature body slam in order to retain the then-WWF championship at WrestleMania III. Dubbed "the body slam heard around the world", Hogan tore his latissimus dorsi muscle lifting Andre.
Largely considered the greatest moment in WrestleMania history, I'd be inclined to agree if not for another infamous Hulkster match…
1: Icon vs. Icon
From a technical standpoint there are many, many more matches that deserve their place on this list more than WrestleMania X8's 'Icon vs. Icon' match. But in terms of WrestleMania moments, none are more spine-tingling than the beginning of The Rock and Hulk Hogan's first ever time facing off against each other in the squared circle.
The dream match to end all dream matches, the main stars of the match were actually the fans in attendance, the loudest and most enthusiastic perhaps ever heard at a WWE event. If The Rock vs. John Cena generates even 50% of the response received here, McMahon can consider WrestleMania 28 a success.