With WrestleMania only hours away, we should probably go back through the history of WrestleMania and pluck out some of the main events and more memorable matches from the prior 31 events. Of course, all of these are currently available on the WWE Network, so there’ll be no YouTube links here!
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania 6)
One year after the Mega Powers exploded, where Hulk Hogan regained the WWE title, Hogan was back in the main event, this time in a match branded as the “Ultimate Challenge”, with the Ultimate Warrior putting his Intercontinental title on the line against Hogan’s WWE title.
Given who the two combatants are, you can’t really be expecting a wrestling clinic, but somehow we got a mat classic to end WrestleMania 6. Almost 68,000 in Toronto were treated to a test of strength at the match – a move that would later turn the Hulkster into a rather unwanted meme. In hindsight, Hogan’s selling while the Warrior’s head was that close to his crotch was a really bad idea!
The match went from the homoerotic-looking test of strength to some no-selling, with Warrior popping up from a body slam, before clotheslining Hogan out to the floor. Since the plan was for this match to make Warrior the big new star, they certainly went about it the right way, having Warrior dominate from the off. Hogan sells a knee injury for a long time on the floor, but instead of going for the knee, we see two babyfaces going for chokes and eye rakes.
Suddenly Hogan’s knee is better, so we can guess where Dolph Ziggler learned how to sell!
Warrior tried to escape a rear chinlock by pulling on what was left of Hogan’s hair, but the referee put a stop to it every time, and Hogan pulled out a back suplex to try and put Warrior away, only getting a two count before going back to the rear chinlock. Warrior elbowed out of it, but a double clothesline sent both men to the mat.
Warrior Warrior’s up, shaking the ropes and no-selling Hogan’s axehandle blows, before blocking two punches and sending Hogan reeling with what looked like an attempted headbutt, but would have been Big Daddy’s belly bounce had Warrior been three hundred pounds heavier. A series of clotheslines keeps Hogan to the mat, before Warrior locks in a bear hug that sees Hogan fade away (almost like a sleeperhold), but Hogan Hulks-Up out of it, only for the referee to collide with the Warrior as he came bounding off the ropes.
A series of double axehandles off the top rope sends Hogan down, but Hogan sidesteps a shoulder charge from Warrior, but there’s no referee to make the count. Warrior repeats the “no referee to make the count” spot with a back suplex getting him a visual pinfall, but eventually the referee stirs as Warrior gets a two count. A back elbow in the ropes sends Warrior to the floor, but the Warrior’s latest comeback starts by sending Hogan into the post, before Hogan sells his way back into the ring, and into Warrior’s gorilla press/splash finishing combo.
Hogan kicks out at two, and here’s your Hulk-Up spot, ending with a big boot, but the Hogan leg drop gets nothing but mat, allowing Warrior to bounce off the ropes with a big splash, and we have a new champion!
As expected going in, this was not going to be a five-star classic, but this just about holds up twenty six years later. In hindsight, it was a fairly phoney “changing of the guard”, what with Hogan kicking out at the end, then “giving the Warrior his newly won title”. History would ensure that this moment would last, but not in the way that they probably intended!
Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13)
Albeit not the main event of WrestleMania 13, this match left more of a mark than the match that ended the show (Undertaker vs. Sid, for those struggling to remember). UFC veteran Ken Shamrock was nominated as the special guest referee for this submissions-only match, as a way to introduce Shamrock to a WWE audience.
Austin jumped Hart at the bell with a double-leg takedown before lighting into the Hitman with punches, with the two rolling around until they spilled to the ringside floor to brawl. Austin crotches Hart onto the guard rail, where Bret’s leg bumps into a security guard, and we clearly see Captain Lou Albano acting as an impromptu security guard. The brawl spills into the stands, and it’s an insane scene as they are literally fighting through the crowd, rather than the pre-prepared safe areas that modern day “crowd brawls” tend to be.
Back in the ringside area, Austin whips Bret into the steel stairs so hard, the stairs almost end up in the crowd, and we’re nowhere near either guy attempting a submission maneuver here, particularly when Bret kicks Austin low to avoid having said stairs thrown into him. They finally go into the ring, and that’s where Bret starts to get a foothold in the match, going to work with elbows to Austin’s right leg.
Bret misses a butt drop into Austin’s leg on the rope, and as Bret sells, he turns into what would become a finisher in its own right – the Stone Cold Stunner – but that’s for nought in this submissions match. The Hitman goes back to the injured left leg of Austin, and here we see the figure four on the ringpost for the match’s first submission attempt!
Bret grabs a ring bell, and a steel chair, with Bret looking to Pillman-ize Austin’s left ankle, but Austin gets up and waffles Bret across the head with the chair. Austin keeps the pressure on, but no point does Austin go for a submission move – nor do the announcers question just what he’ll go for as a submission. I guess we’ve wiped his Million Dollar Dream days out of our memories!
Austin actually does for a submission with what can be closely approximated to a grounded Octopus hold, before turning the Hitman over into a Boston crab. Bret gets the ropes, but Austin goes for the Sharpshooter, only to power out of it whilst Jerry Lawler on commentary surmises how embarrassing it’d have been to lost via his own finishing move (eight months before Montreal). Hmm!
Bret then gets tossed to the outside as he comes off the ropes towards Austin, but he manages to reverse an Irish whip as Austin gets sent towards the timekeeper’s table and commentary area. Austin comes up bleeding, with droplets of blood splattering on the blue mats around ringside, as Bret rams Austin’s head into the ringpost. Back in the ring, the camera gets a good shot of the blood coming out of Austin’s head (no blood packs here, folks!), as Bret starts putting the boots and fists to Austin’s bloody noggin.
The steel chair comes into play again as Bret rams it into Austin’s injured knee, as more and more of the canvas is stained red. Austin rakes the eyes to get out of an attempt at a Sharpshooter, and you can sense the crowd getting sympathy for Austin, so much so that they cheer when he kicks Bret low. Austin whips Hart chest-first into the turnbuckles as he launches a comeback, repeatedly stomping at Bret, before a superplex sends Bret down.
Austin brings in a cable from the cameraman, and chokes Bret in the ropes with it, but a shot with the ring bell to Austin’s head frees the Hitman, and that’s our set up for a Sharpshooter! Austin repeatedly shakes his head, and we get that iconic shot of a bloodied Austin screaming in agony. Austin powers up as we see some more blood dripping, but he isn’t able to fully reverse out of the Sharpshooter. Ken Shamrock repeatedly asks Austin if he gives up, but “Stone Cold” is not responsive, and Shamrock calls the match.
The Hitman gets a mixed reaction to his win, particularly as he continues the assault on Austin after the match – at least, until Shamrock gets a waistlock takedown on the Hitman that Hart immediately pops up from. Bret’s exit after walking away from a stand-off with Shamrock earns him some boos, but the seeds were sewn before the bell even started, as Vince McMahon on commentary reminding us of Bret shoving him down in the ring, and Bret’s increased tirades – the actions of a heel, even if Bret were getting cheered at the time.
This match, albeit not a main event, is definitely one of the more iconic WrestleMania matches from the 90s, and is well worth going out of your way to watch again.
The Miz vs. John Cena (WrestleMania 27)
In 2016, when people talk about the Miz, one of the first things that enters your mind is that “this guy headlined WrestleMania in 2011”. Fast forward to 2016, and he’s a lower-card version of Dolph Ziggler – mostly forgotten about, and any attempts at rebuilding him usually end within the blink of an eye.
Miz’s entrance starts with a weird package mixed of his career to-date, including MTV’s Real World, his spell in Tough Enough, him being the host of SmackDown (but strangely, not him forgetting the dial-in details for the Diva Search!), set to clips of some of WWE’s household names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin and the Rock. That crashes to Miz beating Randy Orton for the WWE title, and Angry Miz Girl! Speaking of falls from grace, Alex Riley seconds the Miz – how he must long for 2011 these days!
Much like the Miz, John Cena gets a lengthy video package, after gospel choir sang an intro – but he too got booed to the ring… and we’ve gone a solid thirteen minutes between when Justin Roberts originally announced the match, to the bell ringing to start the damn thing!
Cena starts by shaking Miz away from a headlock, a move that Miz returns to as his early advantage gets cut off with a Cena hiptoss. Miz stomps away in the corner for longer than the referee’s five count, but leniency from Mike Chioda sees him pull the champion away rather than go for a DQ. A clothesline through the turnbuckles gets Miz a two-count, and he’s already hitting his more prominent moves here?
Miz misses the corner clothesline at the second attempt, and gets waffled with a flying legdrop from Cena for a near-fall. This crowd is absolutely silent for this main event, and it seems that the boredom infected the announce team also, as Jerry Lawler sounded half asleep when Cena tripped over Miz/tried to do a flying something. Seriously, I watched that five times and still couldn’t figure out what he was trying to do.
Cena staggers up into a Skull Crushing Finale, but escapes and starts to go through his Five Moves of Doom (literally seconds after the announcers were trying to have us believe that Cena was knocked loopy), and now the crowd awakens. With boos. Miz escapes an Attitude Adjustment, and drills Cena with a short DDT for a near fall, whilst a backbreaker/neckbreaker combo gets similar results.
Miz undoes the top turnbuckle cover to distract the referee, and walks into a small package by Cena as the referee is trying to replace said cover. Sadly, there was no crowd reaction to alert the referee to the pinfall attempt… yet he still turned around for it. Cena goes for the STF in the middle of the ring, but Miz crawls to the ropes for the break, and as the referee checks on Miz, Alex Riley jumps up and rams Cena’s head into the exposed turnbuckle. That only gets a near-fall, and another attempt at a Skull Crushing Finale sees Cena shove Miz into the ref. Shame that means that the Attitude Adjustment only results in a visual pinfall…
That opens the door for Alex Riley to run in again and waffle Cena with a briefcase, but Cena kicks out at two. Miz goes for the briefcase again, but Cena ducks as the briefcase gets launched into Riley, with another Attitude Adjustment getting a two-count, as the crowd slowly wakes up. Miz exits the ring and crawls near the timekeepers’ table, as Cena sets up for a charging clothesline, sending him over the barricade. What happens next defies logic, as Cena returns to the ring, but chooses to charge after Miz who’s trying to climb over the barricade and into the crowd. Cena connects with something resembling a spear, but Cena knocks himself loopy on the ground with his landing… and we get a double count out finish.
The crowd murmurs once the double count out result is announced, and can barely bring themselves to a reaction when the Miz is announced as the champion. Well, that was a load of nothing! But of course, this WrestleMania was hosted by The Rock, whose end-of-show appearance couldn’t wake the crowd up either. The Anonymous GM’s email sounder made an unwelcome appearance, and the Rock overrules the GM, and rules that the match restarts under no-DQ and no-count-out rules. Just think about it – if Rock hadn’t come out, WrestleMania’s main event would have ended in a draw… who booked that?!
Of course, Cena pops up and rolls the Miz back into the ring to give him another Attitude Adjustment. However, Miz grabs the ropes, and Cena turns around into a Rock Bottom – setting up Once/Twice in a Lifetime – and allowing Miz to crawl onto Cena for the win. Well, that extension was like the rest of the match: a whole load of nothing, even if it did set up something for the next year (or two’s) WrestleManias. What a slap in the face to the (bored) Atlanta crowd!
Granted, the Rock does come back after the match to slap down Miz and finish him off with a Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow to send the people home happy. Regardless, that was a flat ending to what was an utterly forgettable show.
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