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WrestleMania, now more than ever, is defined by the moments fans eagerly recall each year in preparation for the upcoming iteration of the event.
Monumental showdowns, unbelievable victories, defining performances and historic occurrences make up a long and illustrious history of moments in WWE. On April 2-3, sports entertainment’s most prestigious company will look to create more unforgettable moments when it presents the 38th Showcase of the Immortals, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Before looking to the future, it is important to pay homage to the past. Ahead of Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns in a gigantic Winner Takes All match for the WWE and universal titles, these are the moments that have enthralled fans at the marquee event since 1985.
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25. Girls Just Want to Have Fun (WrestleMania 1)
One cannot overstate Cyndi Lauper’s significance to the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era of WWE and the formulation of the inaugural WrestleMania. The image of her and new women’s champion Wendi Richter dancing around the ring together following the latter’s victory over Leilani Kai is one of the genuinely underrated moments in the event’s history.
24. Steamboat’s Triumph (WrestleMania 3)
Ricky Steamboat overcame a crushed throat to challenge “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship in a match that would rank among the best the industry has seen. Fueled by revenge and seeking his first singles title in the company, Steamboat excelled on WWE’s grandest stage and, with a little help from George “The Animal” Steele, defeated Savage in a classic. His post-match celebration, including an embrace of his hairy friend, remains an enduring visual.
23. Spear! (WrestleMania 17)
When you raise the bar as consistently as Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz did over a two-year span from 2000-02, it is difficult to produce a moment that drops jaws. But Edge accomplished that in 2001, delivering a Spear from the top of a ladder that drove Jeff Hardy to the mat some 20 feet below. The moment remains etched in the memory of fans and in every ‘Mania rewind video the company produces, and with good reason.
22. Generations Collide (WrestleMania 30)
Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock transcended pro wrestling during their time at the top of the industry. The three biggest stars the business had produced shared the squared circle to open WrestleMania 30. The result was an electric promo that entertained the masses, regardless of the era they grew up in.
21. WrestleMania Goes Hardcore (WrestleMania 22)
Edge entered the 2006 event knowing he needed a moment that would convince management he belonged in the main event. Mick Foley arrived lacking that one, defining moment on wrestling’s grandest stage to cement his legacy. Together, they delivered a spot that left fans cheering and cringing, a Spear through the ropes that sent both The Rated-R Superstar and The Hardcore Legend crashing through a table engulfed in flames.
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20. Once in a Lifetime (WrestleMania 28)
Two icons of professional wrestling clashed in 2012 in a dream match dubbed “Once in a Lifetime.” Promoted for a whole year, John Cena squared off with The Rock in a match that forced fans to choose sides. The Great One would win the epic encounter, but it would have ranked higher on this list had it not been for a rematch the following year that devalued the tagline.
19. Brock Lesnar’s Shooting Star Miss (WrestleMania 19)
Brock Lesnar’s awe-inspiring Shooting Star Press at WrestleMania 19 reflected the desire to break out new moves while chasing that elusive moment. It also stunned audiences when he missed Kurt Angle, landing on his head and neck. He recovered to win the match but not without suffering a concussion. The image of the heavyweight soaring through the air still draws goosebumps.
18. End of an Era (WrestleMania 28)
For four years, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Triple H were intertwined in an epic bit of storytelling that culminated inside Hell in a Cell. Michaels refereed a physical contest between his best friend and respected foe that ended with The Phenom extending his unbeaten streak at the event, but it was the post-match embrace at the top of the stage that remains so memorable. Three of the greatest celebrated the end of an era…until the debacle in Saudi Arabia that lessened the impact of the moment.
17. Battle of the Billionaires (WrestleMania 23)
Donald Trump and Vince McMahon took their battle of the egos to the squared circle in 2007, each selecting a representative (Bobby Lashley and Umaga, respectively) and putting their hair on the line in the Battle of the Billionaires. The contest, which drew mainstream media attention thanks to Trump’s The Apprentice reality show, ended with McMahon having his head shaved by the victors and longtime rival, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. His agonizing screaming as he suffered the humiliation helped elevate the angle.
16. The Austin Era Has Begun (WrestleMania 14)
The main event of the 1998 show may have crowned “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as WWE champion but he had been the guy for months by the time his moment came. Still, the coronation of The Texas Rattlesnake, Jim Ross’ call of “the Austin Era has begun!” and the post-match celebration with Mike Tyson made for an extraordinary moment in the career of wrestling’s greatest antihero.
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WWE fans love a good surprise, and the return of Matt and Jeff Hardy in 2017 and subsequent victory in a Fatal 4-Way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships was one of them.
The pop as the team’s iconic theme music played over the speakers and the brothers made their way to the ring was one of the loudest in modern ‘Mania history. From there, they threw caution to the wind, delivering another extreme performance that saw them emerge as champions over The Club’s Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and The Bar’s Cesaro and Sheamus.
On a night that saw Brock Lesnar and Goldberg clash over the WWE title, and Roman Reigns square off with The Undertaker, it was this unexpected return that helped make for the night’s most unforgettable moment.
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From a historical perspective, the Triple Threat Winner Takes All match featuring Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey, SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair and women’s Royal Rumble winner Becky Lynch belongs much further up the list.
It was the first time in WWE history that women competed in the main event of WrestleMania. Together, the trio delivered a strong contest that ultimately crowned Lynch as Raw and SmackDown women’s champion and put an exclamation point on the evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE.
So why does it slot at No. 14?
The show ran so long that it technically ended the following day, so it did not benefit from the hot audience it deserved. The action was good and the right competitor won, but the match itself did not pack the enormous moment it should have.
Another bout between two women would build on Lynch, Rousey and Flair’s moment just two years later.
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Bianca Belair challenged Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in 2021 in a match that represented a truly historic moment in WWE.
For the first time in WrestleMania history, two Black women competed for a world title in the main event of the marquee event.
With tears in their eyes from the start of the match, The EST of WWE and The Boss showed up and showed out. After 17 minutes of intense action, Belair stood tall as the new champion. It was clear to the performers and fans that what had just unfolded was not just a WrestleMania moment but one that would have long-reaching effects on the industry as a whole for many years to come.
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The entire WrestleMania 12 card was built around Shawn Michaels finally scaling the mountaintop in WWE and winning the company’s world title. To do so, he would have to defeat Bret “Hitman” Hart in a grueling Iron Man match, the first of its kind, especially on that particular stage.
Two men once considered too small to be Superstars in the land of giants captivated audiences for over an hour, thanks to a late overtime period, before Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music and captured the gold that had eluded him.
“The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels,” Vince McMahon said on the headset, delivering an iconic soundbite that would partially define HBK’s Hall of Fame career.
The drama, the call by McMahon and the raw emotions out of Michaels helped make this one a staple of WrestleMania video packages for years.
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KofiMania was never supposed to happen. There was no designed push for Kofi Kingston to win the WWE Championship, nor was there any intention for him to advance beyond the midcard to compete in one of the most significant matches on the company’s most prestigious card.
It happened organically, the result of an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the fans to extraordinary performances from Kingston in the weeks preceding the event. After being denied a title opportunity on several occasions, he finally earned a showdown with Daniel Bryan.
A fantastic match ended with Kingston winning the title, but the real moment came when he celebrated the greatest night of his career with his two sons and his New Day tag team partners, Big E and Xavier Woods.
It was the payoff to an arduous journey through the sports-entertainment landscape and proof of what can happen when a Superstar creates an impenetrable bond with fans.
Ironically, Kingston’s opponent that night enjoyed a similar triumph five years earlier and comes in at No. 10 on our list.
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Like Kingston, Bryan overcame preconceived notions about his size and proved that, with an unbreakable bond with the audience, you could achieve great things.
Riding a wave of momentum as a result of the show-interrupting Yes! Movement, in which fans demanded opportunities for their favorite, Bryan had the entire WrestleMania 30 broadcast crafted around him.
First, he defeated Triple H in a grudge match to earn his way to the main event. After absorbing a devastating powerbomb/neckbreaker combination through the announce table, it looked like his dream may turn into a nightmare. But he fought through injury to return to the ring and defeat Batista and Randy Orton in a Triple Threat match to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Pyrotechnics erupted, confetti fell and a Superstar once considered too small and too bland to reach the pinnacle in WWE knelt in the center of the ring in celebration.
Also like Kingston, it was a testament to the power of the audience when it demands change for the performers it most respects.
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The 1990 show featured the industry’s top two babyfaces, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, squaring off in the main event.
The Hulkster put his WWE Championship on the line against Warrior’s intercontinental title in what was also the first Winner Takes All match in event history.
The colossal clash split the audience, with some throwing their support behind Hogan and others embracing the fresh and frenetic Warrior.
The two wrestlers turned in a classic contest that saw Hogan pass the torch to Warrior in a defining moment for the face-painted competitor.
Perhaps as significant as Hogan presenting the victor with his prize was the shot of The Hulkster riding away as Warrior celebrated, with the eyes of the fans in Toronto glued to the departing hero rather than the conquering champion.
It was the first sign that fans were not ready for the biggest star in professional wrestling to walk off into the sunset quite yet.
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“I’m sorry. I love you.”
With those two sentences, Shawn Michaels not only added another entry to his sparkling WrestleMania resume, but he also tugged at the heartstrings of every WWE fan. The emotional toll of his 2008 match with Ric Flair was as substantial as it was physical.
Knowing if he defeated his childhood hero he would his in-ring career, The Heartbreak Kid did what he promised to with Sweet Chin Music.
Michaels kissed a tearful Flair’s forehead and exited the arena, giving The Nature Boy the stage to say goodbye to fans one last time.
One could not have asked for better from either man on a night when their ability to tell a story through body language and facial expressions would be of the utmost importance. Michaels’ words as he prepared to end Flair’s time in the ring elevated the entire thing.
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After two years apart, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth reunited in a tearful angle at the 1991 event.
Savage had been berated by Sensational Sherri following a career-ending loss to The Ultimate Warrior when Elizabeth hopped the guardrail, rushed the ring and came to the aid of her former charge.
Momentary confusion from Savage gave way to an emotional embrace and some enduring images from fans in the stands, as the iconic characters found their way back to each other. It was a defining moment in the careers of the performers and an even greater indication of the power of storytelling in the industry.
A small action like Savage opting to hold the ropes open for the love of his life, after expecting her to do it for him for years, enhanced the angle and confirmed its place among the greatest moments WrestleMania has produced.
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Before Edge, Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz evolved the ladder match, WWE Hall of Famers Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels introduced the match type to the masses in 1994.
Their revolutionary bout, which saw Ramon emerge as the undisputed intercontinental champion, set the bar for everything that would follow. The raw athleticism and instinct of Michaels and the in-ring intelligence of Ramon meshed seamlessly to create an instant classic.
While others have delivered more awe-inspiring high spots or taken more jaw-dropping bumps, the story told by the two men resulted in one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history and one of the most influential of all time.
It also linked the Kliq members together forever and is fondly remembered to this day as an industry-altering contest.
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Icon vs. Icon: It is the only thing WWE could have tagged a match the enormity of The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan.
Two generational performers, with fans around the globe and beyond sports entertainment, clashed in the headliner of 2002, even if it didn’t go on last.
It should have, which became readily apparent the moment they met in the center of the ring. The crowd in Toronto roared, greeting the athletes with a reception reserved for performers of their stature. One man turned his head one way, his opponent the other, each absorbing the atmosphere their encounter had created.
That face-to-face and the volume of the WWE faithful created a moment that encapsulated everything that is extraordinary about ‘Mania. The spectacle, the larger-than-life personalities and the fan involvement all enhanced the moment, which preceded a match that ranks among the best in event history.
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All “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had to do was submit, and the agony he was enduring while trapped in Bret “Hitman” Hart’s Sharpshooter finisher would end.
Instead, he refused. As blood poured from a laceration that had opened earlier in the match, he did everything in his power to fight to the ropes but his body gave out and he went limp, unconscious.
That moment was so much bigger than the outcome of the match. It sparked a double-turn that saw the beloved Hart turn heel and Austin assume the mantle of WWE’s top star and most popular antihero.
It was Austin who would lead the Attitude Era, bringing the company back from the brink during its fiercely contested Monday night ratings battles against WCW to heights the sports-entertainment industry had never before seen.
That comeback may not have happened without Austin’s gutsy performance.
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Prior to 2014, it felt like The Undertaker’s unbeaten streak at WrestleMania was incorruptible. It could not be broken, no matter the level of Superstar to step up to The Phenom on the grand stage.
Everyone from “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels to CM Punk had tried, but The Deadman had conquered every challenge.
Then came Brock Lesnar.
The Beast Incarnate overwhelmed The Phenom, using his strength and fury to plant him with three F-5s to finally end the most storied winning streak in sports-entertainment history. The fans in New Orleans sat in stunned silence.
The visuals of fans with their mouths agape defined the moment. Time stood still as graphics with “21-1” filled the video screens throughout the stadium.
Undertaker, his eye glassy following a severe concussion that would leave him hospitalized after the match, slowly made his way up the entrance ramp, almost as if his superpowers had been stripped of him by a more powerful villain.
That moment still sparks debate from those who argue it never should have happened.
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The greatest surprise ending in WrestleMania history took place in 2015, when Seth Rollins rushed the ring in the middle of the WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns and cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, turning the hotly anticipated singles bout into a Triple Threat bout.
Moments later, to the delight of a crowd that wanted nothing to do with Reigns realizing his goal of becoming WWE’s next superhero, Rollins pinned The Big Dog to capture the title and end the event on a high note.
The unpredictability of it all (no one had cashed in at WrestleMania before), coupled with a star who had been building momentum paying off his journey, helped make this an extraordinary conclusion.
It remains a banner moment in the career of Rollins, and the shocking moment is a reminder of what makes sports entertainment so special.
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“The unstoppable force meets the immovable object.”
It was a cliche, sure, but Gorilla Monsoon could not have encapsulated the titanic clash between WWE champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant any better. The two biggest stars in the industry squared off in a match that was the product of an Andre heel turn and desire to win the title that had eluded him.
That it came against his former friend, a man he watched eclipse him in star and popularity, only made the match that much more personal.
The staredown that kicked off the match, the bodyslam heard around the world and Hogan’s post-match celebration represented pro wrestling at its finest.
Hogan vs. Andre was the match but, more importantly, it was the moment WrestleMania realized its fullest potential. It brought together spectacle and showmanship, physicality and storytelling; and while no one will mistake it for a five-star classic, it captivated an entire generation.
The bodyslam is most remembered, but the staredown and the early near-fall also deserve recognition.