“The Grandest Stage of Them All”, “The Showcase of the Immortals”,”The Show of Shows”, and many more nicknames. This all rings in fans’ ears, at the start of every year.
WWE cannot seize to emphasize how great of an event is Wrestlemania. It’s where the legacies of all-time greats started, ageless classics were displayed, and where careers are immortalized. It’s not just a show WWE is pitching to the fans, but a genuine interest fans have for the company’s biggest PPV.
Satellite calls for ‘Once in a Lifetime’
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson needs no introduction. He was one of the most popular and successful wrestlers during the Attitude Era. The multiple time World Champion’s name will always be associated with WWE, even as one of the most successful Hollywood stars.
When Rock left the squared circle in 2003, John Cena was an emerging superstar. In 2005 Cena reached the top of the mountain, capturing the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 21, from JBL. As Cena escalated to the top, ‘Cena vs Rock’ soon became a dream match for the ages.
When Rock returned in 2011, to host Wrestlemania 27, the dream match began to formulate. There was instant animosity between Rock and Cena, as one did not like the other.
Costing Cena the WWE Championship that Wrestlemania set the wheels in motion, prompting the main event of Wrestlemania 28, one year in advance.
Rock still had to keep up with his outside of WWE ventures. So he’d appear here and there, via satellite, to address fans, and most importantly his Wrestlemania opponent. It was a long shot to believe Rock would appear in person frequently.
The approach left a lot to be desired, and raised more questions than answers. ‘Once in a Lifetime’ lived up to expectations, with Rock standing tall to send home a happy crowd. It was worth the wait, but not without working up fan patience.
Capitalizing on Eddie Guerrero’s Passing
The death of Eddie Guerrero in late 2005 remains to be one of the saddest moments in wrestling history. It was a shockwave felt around the world.
To honor the late Guerrero, Rey Mysterio dedicated his 2006 Royal Rumble performance to his friend. Mysterio went the distance, for a record breaking sixty-two minutes, to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle, at Wrestlemania 22.
Rumble runner-up Randy Orton did not remain silent, and challenged Mysterio for the title opportunity, at No Way Out. To trigger emotions, especially Guerrero’s loved ones, Orton blatantly said “Eddie is down there…in hell!”
Mysterio lost the title opportunity at No Way Out, but found his way back into the title picture, making the match a triple-threat. Somehow, Mysterio pulled off the biggest upset of the night, pinning Orton to become World Champion.
Donald Trump is going to Wrestlemania
What is Wrestlemania without some big name celebrity to spice things up. Wrestlemania 23’s celebrity guest, by today’s standards, is beyond controversial.
In the middle of a Raw “fan application night” speech by Vince McMahon, future US President Donald Trump interrupted McMahon, challenging the chairman to a match at Wrestlemania. Trump clamored to the audience, talking about giving the fans what they want.
McMahon, not taking the humiliation lightly, proposing a “Battle of the Billionaires”, with their million dollar locks of hair on the line. Both had a champion of their choosing, to represent them at Mania. McMahon picked Intercontinental Champion Umaga, and Trump selected ECW Champion Bobby Lashley.
McMahon’s underhanded tactics did not stop Lashley from emerging victorious, and saving Trump’s hair in the process. So here we had a celebrity and eventual US President highlight WWE’s biggest PPV event. And it still stands as one of the most popular.
Wrestlemania 31 finished on a feel good high note for many fan favorites. Daniel Bryan defeated six other competitors in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. John Cena captured the United States Championship from Rusev. And Seth Rollins cashed-in his Money in the Bank contract, in the middle of ‘Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns’ to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
All three champions, before glancing at Wrestlemania 32, were all hit with the injury bug. Cena was sidelined with a shoulder injury, which required surgery. Seth Rollins blew out his knee, and also required surgery. Most notable was Daniel Bryan’s concussion-related retirement, not long after Wrestlemania 31.
The absence of three top talents, was a buzzkill, and only created more what-ifs scenarios. Thankfully, all three competitors eventually made heroic returns and continued their careers.
Premature 2008 Royal Rumble Championship Opportunity
Royal Rumble celebrations are always a site to behold. The Rumble victor enjoys a brief spell of soaking in the win, pointing at the Wrestlemania sign, and teasing who he will challenge at Wrestlemania. 2008 was different.
Awaiting the 30th entrant in the Rumble bumps up the excitement and adrenaline, because you never know who it will be. A fully recovered John Cena made his surprise return that year, after a pectoral injury four months prior, to win the match.
It was a huge moment for Cena, as his career still had ways to go, before becoming the legend he is today.
Instead of waiting until Wrestlemania 24 to use his title opportunity, Cena used it to challenge WWE Champion Randy Orton, at No Way Out. Orton, being the cunning fighter that he is, got himself DQ’d, and gave Cena the win, with no title. It was a squandered chance thrown away by Cena.
While Cena did get his rematch at Mania, HHH squeezed himself in, to make it a triple-threat. A hard fought match concluded with an Orton punt on HHH, to pin Cena, and retain the gold. This just made Cena’s Rumble win feel void.
Reaching the Grandest Stage of them All is a dream come true for many. We all like to think of the crowning moment to be just that. We tend to disregard the speed bumps on the way to the top, to pretend it’s a perfect story for all.
What other dishonorable moments are worth mentioning on the Road to WrestleMania?