WWE WrestleMania 2014: 7 Most Memorable Moments in Event's History
WrestleMania has been home to some of the greatest matches in the history of sports entertainment. Great performers such as Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and The Rock have captivated audiences in displays of athleticism unmatched in any other art form.
For every great match, however, there is an equally great moment.
Those moments evoke emotion from wrestling fans all over the globe and, as a result, become reminders of the effect a great story can have on the business. Sometimes the fans express themselves with cheers, others with jeers. When done right, those moments can even elicit tears.
Throughout the 30-year history of WrestleMania, there have been hundreds of moments that are memorable for a number of different reasons.
There are only a few, however, that can be considered among the greatest moments in the event's history.
Ranked chronologically, here are seven of the most memorable moments to ever take place at the Showcase of the Immortals.
The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object
The biggest main event in WWE history pitted heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan against former friend and Eighth Wonder of the World Andre the Giant.
Once one of the most beloved wrestlers in the history of the sport, Andre shocked the world by turning heel and aligning himself with the hated Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Despite competing for over a decade, he had never expressed desire to hold the top prize in the sport.
That changed when jealousy over Hulk Hogan's accolades began to creep in.
Andre, as it was claimed on WWE programming, was undefeated in his career and would present Hogan with the biggest challenge of his title reign.
The match between the two iconic performers drew 93,173 fans to the historic Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
Its greatest moment, and one of the most striking visuals in WrestleMania history, was the staredown between Hogan and Andre in the opening moments of the bout. Flashbulbs went off throughout the building, and excitement was at a fever pitch.
Then, Gorilla Monsoon uttered the line, "It's the irresistible force meeting the immovable object."
It perfectly summed up the entire match, which would be won by Hogan following a massive bodyslam and leg drop.
Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth Reunite
In one of the greatest matches in WWE history, "Macho Man" Randy Savage lost a retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII.
The bout was filled with drama, and the fans inside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena ate it all up.
For as great as that match was, it was everything that happened in the aftermath of it that elicited cheers and brought tears to the eyes of the fans in attendance.
Realizing Savage had lost the match and was now facing retirement, Queen Sherri entered the ring and laid into her meal ticket, berating the former WWE champion. The once-proud Superstar was beaten down and looked pitiful as he struggled to get his wits about him.
Suddenly Savage's former manager, Miss Elizabeth, who had been watching from the audience, hopped the guardrail, hit the ring and tossed Sherri off of her former charge. With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth watched as Savage finally made it to his feet.
It took him a moment to figure out what happened, but when he did, he embraced Elizabeth. He hoisted her on his shoulder as cameras captured fans in the audience openly crying.
As "Pomp and Circumstance" played, Savage held the ropes open for Elizabeth to exit the squared circle, the first time he had done so in his WWE career. It was a sign of appreciation for what she had done for him both on that night and in the five years that followed.
It was a moment that played on the story aspect of the sport, re-established Savage as a babyface and reunited the greatest couple in WWE history.
"A Boyhood Dream Has Come True"
In 1996, Shawn Michaels became the No. 1 contender by winning the Royal Rumble and was booked to take the WWE Championship from Bret "Hitman" Hart in the main event of WrestleMania XII. The match between WWE's top two babyfaces would be an Iron Man match with the winner being the man who could score the most falls over their opponent in the span of one hour.
The match was a display of athleticism unlike any WrestleMania had seen to that point. Michaels and Hart delivered a wrestling clinic that was as good as any main event that had come before it.
And maybe even a little better.
After the initial 60 minutes of the match ended in a tie, a sudden-death round was ordered by WWE president Gorilla Monsoon.
Michaels seized the opportunity, flattened Hart with Sweet Chin Music and scored the victory and his first heavyweight championship.
As he celebrated triumphantly in the center of the squared circle, Vince McMahon declared, "The boyhood dream...has come true...for Shawn Michaels."
It was an emotional moment that anyone who had ever had a dream could immediately relate to and appreciate. It also launched the main event career of Michaels, who would go on to have outstanding title defenses against the likes of Diesel, Vader, British Bulldog and Mankind.
"The Austin Era Has Begun"
WrestleMania XIII in 1997 saw a double turn that resulted in "Stone Cold" Steve Austin becoming the hottest babyface in all of professional wrestling.
Rather than being the clean-cut, bread-and-butter babyface that the company had touted for so long, Austin was the in-your-face, swearing antihero who captured the attention of audiences around the world.
He greeted fans and opponents alike with the middle finger, drank beer and bucked tradition en route to becoming the most popular star the sport had seen since the height of Hulkamania.
By the time WrestleMania XIV in 1998 rolled around, it was clear the man dubbed the Texas Rattlesnake was poised to capture the top prize in the sport.
With the eyes of the wrestling world, not to mention mainstream media thanks to the involvement of guest enforcer Mike Tyson, Austin dropped "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels with the Stone Cold Stunner and started a brand new revolution in the wrestling business.
"The Austin era has begun," proclaimed commentator Jim Ross.
Indeed it had, and the industry would reap the benefits for the next four years.
The closing moments of WrestleMania XX were among the most raw and emotional in the history of the event.
Earlier in the evening, Eddie Guerrero entered Madison Square Garden as WWE champion for a defense against Kurt Angle. Utilizing the "lie, cheat and steal" philosophy that made him the most over babyface in wrestling leading into the show, Eddie defeated Angle to retain the title.
In the night's main event, Chris Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a classic Triple Threat match to capture the World Heavyweight Championship.
Afterwards, as confetti fell from the ceiling and the fans inside the world's most famous arena celebrated, Guerrero made his way to the ring. With tears in his eyes, he embraced his longtime friend Benoit and raised his arm in victory.
It was a genuine moment, the peak of two of the most respected workers' careers. After competing in WCW, where they were regularly passed up for major pushes or opportunities and where they were repeatedly told they were too small to succeed at the top of the sport, they celebrated together on the biggest night the sport has to offer in the most celebrated arena in all of sports.
Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Benoit's death resulted in the disappearance of any footage involving the star from relevance.
"I'm Sorry. I Love You."
2008 saw the end of the in-ring career of the legendary Hall of Fame inductee Ric Flair.
At least in World Wrestling Entertainment.
To wrap up his career, a storyline was devised in which Flair would regularly defend his career against some of the top talent the company had to offer. At WrestleMania XXIV, he would face the biggest challenge to that career when he took on friend Shawn Michaels in one of the night's marquee matches.
Flair put on his working boots, delivering the finest performance he was capable of while Michaels assured the Nature Boy would have one last great match at the biggest show in wrestling.
Reeling and with no real shot at escaping Orlando victorious, Flair struggled to his feet, his face wrecked with emotion and stared across the ring at one of the many wrestlers he influenced over the course of 30-plus years.
Michaels looked at him, said, "I'm sorry, I love you" and dropped his idol with Sweet Chin Music.
Fans who had followed Flair's career understood the magnitude of the moment while those younger fans who only knew the Nature Boy they had seen over the handful of years preceding the match were engrossed by the story told between the ropes.
It was a perfect moment and a fitting conclusion to a career as storied as Flair's.
The End of an Era
At WrestleMania XXVIII, The Undertaker and Triple H met for the third time on the grandest stage in sports entertainment. The match took place inside the confines of the unforgiving Hell in a Cell and featured Shawn Michaels in a guest referee role.
Dubbed the "End of an Era," it was one of the night's most hotly anticipated contests.
The three veterans of the ring wars told a tremendous story in what turned out to be a brutal match inside the cell. Michaels' loyalty to friend Triple H did end up playing a factor in the match, but Undertaker weathered the storm, planted The Game with the Tombstone Piledriver and picked up win No. 21.
The greatest moment came after the bout as Michaels, Undertaker and Triple H made their way up the aisle, stopped and embraced. While both Undertaker and Triple H would go on to compete the following year, fans could not help but feel as though they really had seen the end of an era in professional wrestling.
Those three Superstars had traveled the roads together, competed with and against one another when business was both good and bad. To see those guys sharing a moment such as that one, at an event as huge as WrestleMania, was truly special and one of the great moments in the event's long and illustrious history.