And it’s finally here. This is my 300th post on HTCWrestling. Hopefully, everyone that has been reading my posts enjoys what I do. Pro Wrestling has been in my life since I was three years old and it has never left.
Trust me, I’ve gone through some of the same things other wrestling fans have. People like to rip on us when we say we watch pro wrestling. And I don’t care. To me, wrestling is just like any other TV show. It’s entertainment. Its scripted. Reality TV is the same way. Almost all of my friends have accepted my wrestling fandom, and they have even watched it and come to different events with me. So a special thanks to my friends Alexx, Dave, Kevin, Sabrina, Lorah and Heather (she’s actually a big fan like myself).
Now with that out of the way, this column is a look back at my favorite moments in wrestling history. No other real introduction here. This list includes matches, moments, promos etc. Some of the list includes moments that happened at events I attended. Some of my Top 25 also includes multiple things lumped into one as I felt that they went together. For me, this is just a look back and a way to have fun with my 300th post. I had other topic thoughts, like writing about late WCW, but then I realized I wanted to live past this weekend and not get committed.
So here’s my list. I’ll share my thoughts on what I was thinking at the time as a kid and now. Feel free to share your own favorite moments at the end.
25. Stone Cold Takes Out The Alliance
-Everyone likes to forget the Invasion angle actually happened. I mean, in all honesty, what good came from the angle long term? It’s always something I thought about doing a column on at some point down the road. But my favorite moment from the whole thing? Austin returning before the Invasion PPV on RAW and delivering Stone Cold Stunners to any Alliance member in sight. Another moment where the crowd popped huge for Austin’s return. And although he would turn heel at the PPV, this moment is the highlight of a very forgettable Invasion angle.
24. Eric Bischoff Shows Up On RAW
-People always use the phrase “never say never.” But there are some things you just don’t expect to happen. One of those things to a lot of wrestling fans was Eric Bischoff ever stepping into a WWE ring. But that ended up happening Bischoff appeared on RAW to become the show’s GM. Here’s a guy that tried to run the WWE out of business and constantly made jabs at Vince and Co. I don’t know if anyone ever expected to see Bischoff on a show he was in competition with every week. It shocked me when it happens and to this day I still can’t believe Vince McMahon welcomed Bischoff to the WWE at all.
23. Ron Simmons Wins The WCW Title
-Sometimes you just have to appreciate the feel good moments in wrestling. There had never really been a top African American wrestler in the major wrestling promotions to that point. Simmons win was a great emotional moment and the crowd was very appreciative of it. Even for someone who isn’t African American like myself appreciated for all the hard work Simmons had done in the business looking back on it.
22. Macho Man Randy Savage vs Ultimate Warrior: Wrestlemania 7
-Obviously this was one that I was alive for, but three year old Justin didn’t see it live. This is a match that I can go back and watch anytime I want. It is easily my favorite Ultimate Warrior. A good example of a story adding to the match. The Randy Savage of old was great at telling stories in the ring and laying out matches to perfection. And he did it here again. And the after match story with Elizabeth was good too and played to the WWF audience at the time. Wrestlemania 7 isn’t that great, but this definitely stood out.
21. Jeff Hardy Wins The WWE Title At Armageddon
-This is the first of my handful live event experience that will end up on my list. I thought Jeff Hardy was someone who had deserved the WWE Title for over a year. And it was nice to see him finally win it in person. I remember the loud pop from the crowd after he won. It was the first WWE Championship change that I had ever seen in person. And it was a good match to go along with it. Just a nice moment for someone who, despite his personal struggles, no doubt loves pro wrestling and has busted his ass to get to the top.
20. The TLC Match Trilogy
Yes, I know the first match at Wrestlemania wasn’t considered a TLC match, but it was pretty much just like one. The Dudleyz, Hardy Boys and Edge & Christian but on three of the most entertaining ladder matches you will ever see. They were the lone highlight of Wrestlemania 16. I will salute all six men to this day for going out and putting their bodies on the line to entertain every wrestling fan out there. Probably the last time WWE had three legit tag teams in their tag division.
19. Backlash 2000: The Rock vs Triple H
-The WWE was on fire in early 2000. It’s such a shame Wrestlemania 16 was such a dud because the PPVs before and after were great. The atmosphere in the building was phenominal. The crowd was anticipating the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin to help The Rock take down the McMahon Family. When the moment finally happened, it was probably one of the loudest pops you will ever hear to this day. To me, this moment was the peak of the Attitude Era.
18. The Debut Of The Nexus
-The Nexus angle started off great. Here’s this group of young, rebellious guys who want to make a name for themselves in the WWE. And they were just destroying everything insight. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Daniel Bryan wasn’t fired. Wade Barrett came off as a great leader and someone destined for big things. It’s a shame the WWE messed it up and Barrett never succeeded. But their debut had people talking and was something different for the WWE at the time.
17. Edge Cashes In Money In The Bank
-I was curious to see how the first Money in the Bank cash in would work. It was a new concept and no one really knew how exactly Edge would turn in his contract. That is why New Year’s Revolution, despite not being a great PPV, had this great moment. It really was the perfect first time to have a cash in. The crowd might have been at its all time high as far as hatred for John Cena goes. Despite the reign only being a couple weeks long, it showed that the WWE was serious about Edge being a main eventer and his subsequent feud and match with Mick Foley solidified it. It is always tough to top the first or original of anything, and that theory holds true to the Money in the Bank cash in.
16. ECW One Night Stand 2005
-I wasn’t old enough at the time to appreciate the true alternative that ECW offered to WWE and WCW. By the time I started reading the Internet, ECW was gone for a few years. I would always try to watch ECW TV early or late at night when it was on whatever random channel it was on. And I did start watching regularly when it went to TNN. But I thought the first One Night Stand did a great job of paying tribute to the ECW of old. It had as many originals as they could get. The Sandman’s entrance still gives me goosebumps to this day. Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka had another one of their fun brawls. It was just a shame that Rob Van Dam was injured and couldn’t compete. But it was a great nod to the old ECW by the WWE, before they ruined it with their new version.
15. Eddie Guerrero Wins The WWE Championship
-Another one of those feel good moments in wrestling. Eddie Guerrero was a guy who spent over a decade in the wrestling business. He was one of the most gifted wrestlers to ever set foot in the ring. And it was great to see him get his due and be given the top prize in the industry. Wrestlemania 20 would have been on this list if it weren’t for Chris Benoit. That moment was great before it was tarnished. But nothing takes away from Eddie Guerrero’s legacy at all.
14. The Goldberg Streak And World Title Win
-WCW definitely screwed up Starrcade 97 and the following PPVs and everything to do with Sting after. But they started to redeem themselves when they began to push Goldberg as an unstoppable monster. Goldberg may not have been the most polished wrestler, but he looked like a legit badass and his offense in the ring looked dominant. Now, should his match against Hogan for the Title been saved for PPV? Absolutely. But that was the business side of things. It didn’t at all takeaway from a sold out Georgia Dome going nuts for their hometown guy winning the Title. Of course, they screwed up who Goldberg lost too in the end, and that continued the downfall of WCW.
13. The Debut Of Chris Jericho
-One reason the Monday Night War Era was fun is because there was a sense of unpredictability during that time. For all you knew, someone could be on Nitro one week then show up on RAW the following. Chris Jericho’s debut was great because the WWE treated it as a big deal. They hyped it up for the longest time, then had him interrupt The Rock. The crowd loved it. It took a little while for Jericho to get to the top of the WWE, but you knew with his debut that the WWE had high hopes for him and he ended up delivering during his career.
12. Uncensored 97: Sting Stands Up To The nWo
-As a kid, I was definitely split on who I liked in WCW. While I was an nWo fan, I was also a Sting fan. Of course I was in my early teens so that is acceptable for not being able to pick sides. But if there was one moment that turned the tides for me, it was Sting attacking the nWo after their match at Uncensored. Nobody knew what side Sting would be on and when he finally chose WCW it was a great moment. Then we got months of Hollywood Hogan avoiding Sting, and then they ruined the great build at Starrcade. Sting is in my Top 5 wrestlers of all time (#5 after HBK, Austin, Savage and Punk) and this moment helped solidify that for me, and turned me from an nWo fan to a Sting fan.
11. Stone Cold Wins The WWF Title At Wrestlemania 14
-This one was a tough one for me. For those that don’t know me, Shawn Michaels is my favorite wrestle of all time. And that will be evident as we get to the rest of my list. My second favorite wrestler of all time? Steve Austin. So I really didn’t know who to root for going in. I probably would’ve been happy with either outcome as a kid. Now, obviously I know how booking in wrestling works and new Austin was winning. Looking back on it, it was nice to see a guy who busted his ass for so long in the industry to finally get his due.
10. CM Punk’s 434 Day WWE Title Reign
-It is something that hadn’t been seen in quite some time. Most WWE Title reigns were lasting for a few months. You might see them top out at six. But once CM Punk won the WWE Title at Survivor Series, he was given the ball and never gave it back. Sure, he was still not considered the top guy with John Cena still around. But once he turned heel he became the focal point of everything. I don’t think we will see anyone come close to topping Punk’s reign in the near future. He had some classic matches with Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho. His alliance with Paul Heyman rejuvenated the tail end of his reign. Punk did a great job making every part of his reign fun to watch.
9. SummerSlam 2002: The Return of Shawn Michaels
-Once Shawn Michaels stopped wrestling full time after Wrestlemania 14, I didn’t think he would ever wrestle again. That is why I was very pumped to see him return at SummerSlam to take on Triple H. And boy did they tell a great story in the ring. HBK showed that he could still bring it in the ring even after four years of being gone. HHH played his part great as well. And even after this I didn’t expect HBK to stay around for as long as he did. It’s one of my favorite Shawn Michaels matches and it still holds up to this day when viewed.
8. Attending Royal Rumble 2014
-Yeah, I feel bad for everyone that watched this on PPV. But I attended the show live and the crowd alone made for a great atmosphere. I’ve made my points before that “hijacking” a show can be good when done appropriately. This was one of those times. The crowd let it be known that they were sick of John Cena vs Randy Orton, and they didn’t want Batista being shoved down our throats as a main eventer. Plus, the Rumble match itself was something that I’d always wanted to see live. If the outcome was a little better this would’ve been higher on my list. Plus, along with Heather my friends Kevin and Sabrina actually spent money to come on the trip, which made for a fun weekend. And I met Chris Jericho which was great, except when he lied to me about being the #31 entrant in the Rumble.
7. CM Punk vs The Undertaker: Wrestlemania 29
-I was at Wrestlemania 29. For me, the weekend itself was way more fun than Wrestlemania 29. But there is one thing that stands out from Mania 29, and it was CM Punk vs The Undertaker. It is easily the greatest match that I have ever seen live and in person. You had a truly divided audience. While some people I know don’t get into Taker matches because they know he is going to win, you can’t deny that there are some dramatic moments in his matches. Including this one. Taker had put on “spectacles” with HHH the previous two years. This one for the most part was a standard wrestling match and it was great. You knew HHH/Brock and Cena/Rock couldn’t follow it. These two guys hooked in fans that even knew the finish going into it. And it was even better live.
6. The Formation of the nWo
-To this day, I would still call this the most shocking moment in wrestling history. I wasn’t really an insider at the time or knew what was going on behind the scenes, so this came as a total shock to me. Hulk Hogan had always been the clean cut American babyface. And he turned heel to form one of the most memorable factions of all time. He also launched WCW into the #1 wrestling promotion in the world. It was a great way to grab attention to the company. Because of the Internet, we will never see such a shocking swerve or heel turn in the near future. No one really saw this coming and it made it that much better.
5. The Rock vs Hulk Hogan: Wrestlemania 18
-Sometimes there are moments when even the smarkies of Internet fans go back to being a mark. And this was one of those moments. Two of the biggest icons in this business standing in the same ring and going one-on-one for the first time ever. While they may not be at the top of my favorites list, you can’t deny that these two are probably the biggest names pro wrestling has ever seen. It’s a time where the match quality really didn’t matter. It was just two icons from different generations going at it in the ring.
4. My First Wrestlemania
-A good majority of wrestling fans have been to at least one Wrestlemania. Some make it a tradition and go every year while others have just been to a handful. I have now been to 2, and Wrestlemania 27 was my first one. While it may not have been one of the better Wrestlemanias, just the experience of going to my first one was memorable. Of course, I got to see Shawn Michaels go in the Hall of Fame. Going to Axxess was fun. And being around 70,000 other fans in a giant dome stadium was different. Of course, for someone who doesn’t travel a lot like me, just going somewhere like Atlanta was fun. Wrestlemania weekend is a great experience and I recommend it to everyone. WM29 was fun to just for being in New York City for some of it.
3. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker: WM25/26 + HBK’s Retirement
-I’m combining the two because the follow-up at WM26 links it to WM25. The Wrestlemania 25 match is probably my favorite wrestling match of all time. The story told in the build to WM26 was much better. Of course, that was also built up over the span of about three months. The fact of not beating Taker at WM25 and it eating him up inside for over a year was good and justified a rematch at the following Mania. One of the best one/two set of matches ever. There matches I would show to any non-wrestling fan to show why I like pro wrestling. HBK’s retirement speech the next night got some tears in my eyes. I’m not afraid to admit it. When your favorite at anything retires it can be emotional. But this year story had a great beginning, middle and end. And again, it was two veterans giving it their all to entertain and tell a great story.
2. Summer of Punk: From Pipebomb to Money in the Bank 2011
-Some of this stuff I’ve lumped into one because it is all part of one story. And this is what’s happening here. The pipebomb promo was great at the time. We hadn’t seen something like that in a long time on WWE TV. Then the story that was told in the coming weeks was well done, including the contract negotiation between Punk and Vince McMahon. Then the Money in the Bank match between Cena and Punk happened. It was everything you want to see a wrestling fan. A great match between two ring veterans, a good story told to build up to it, and a great crowd that adds to the overall atmosphere. Punk and Cena have great chemistry together. And I will still say to this day (even though my colleague Matt Harrak won’t agree), Punk is Cena’s greatest rival in the WWE.
1. Shawn Michaels Wins the WWF Title At Wrestlemania 12
-There have been a couple of other Shawn Michaels moments in my list. But this one is at the top. I remember as a young kid in 4th grade going crazy at the time when this happened because I had become such a big Shawn Michaels fan. And I never stopped being one after this. The match is a long one to get through, but the story was built up so well that the moment of HBK raising his hands in victory is worth it. The whole “boyhood dream” was perfect. What kid watching doesn’t have that same dream at one point? We all do. From the story to the match to HBK’s hand being raised, this moment tops my list.
That was a fun trip down memory lane for me. And a great way to spend my 300th column on HTCWrestling.
Until Next Time,
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka