For nearly 30 years it’s been the most significant event in professional wrestling, the annual supercard most anticipated by the best in the business and by fans, both hardcore and casual, all over the world. Since its inception in 1985, WrestleMania has played a major role in expanding the reach of pro wrestling globally as it routinely pushes new champions, ends long-simmering rivalries while establishing new ones, and turns babyfaces into heels and vice versa, albeit on a much bigger platform than an ordinary house show or TV event.
There have been many memorable WrestleMania moments over the decades, a small number of which have not only helped shape the future of the WWE but the future of this longest running extravaganza as well. Here are the most influential ones in the history of the event listed in chronological order:
1. King Kong Bundy squashes S.D. Jones in less than a minute (1985)
The first WrestleMania was booked like a better-than-average house show with the usual mix of squash matches and competitive encounters. The most important of the former was match #2. King Kong Bundy was about to enjoy a nice long run as a monster heel, a enormous villain who relished taking out popular babyfaces without mercy, not unlike Mark Henry in 2011. But before he could demolish Hillbilly Jim, Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan, he needed to first establish himself in his own right.
It was decided that his WrestleMania match with the late Special Delivery Jones would be quick and completely one-sided to put over his dominance in an unexpected way. As a result, despite being jumped by Jones at the start, Bundy rammed him into the corner, delivered his patented Avalanche and fell on him for the victory. Contrary to what was announced immediately afterwards (ring announcer Howard Finkel said the match lasted 9 seconds), it was really all over in less than 30 seconds, the shortest WM match of the 1980s. Mission accomplished.
While Bundy would go on to main event WrestleMania 2 by battling Hogan for the WWF World Championship inside a steel cage, the influence of his super-quick squash match would be felt in many similiar matches for years to come.
At WrestleMania V, The Red Rooster made quick work of former manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan in about 30 seconds. At WrestleMania VI, The Hart Foundation defeated The Bolsheviks in 19 seconds. (At SummerSlam that year, they would go on to win the tag team titles for the second and final time.) Controversially, Hulk Hogan would win his fifth WWF Championship from Yokozuna in 21 seconds at the end of WrestleMania 9. (Yokozuna had just beaten Bret Hart for the title moments earlier.) Earthquake took care of Adam Bomb at WrestleMania X in 30 seconds. At Wrestlemania 14, Butterbean cold cocked Bart Gunn in their Brawl For All match in less than 40 seconds.
Ten years later, as a result of winning a dark match battle royal, Kane became the number one contender to Chavo Guerrero’s ECW World Championship at WrestleMania 24. All it took to win the title was a choke slam sneak attack. The bout lasted 8 seconds, making it the shortest one in WrestleMania history.
The following year, InterContinental Champion JBL embarrassed himself by delivering a cocky promo before defending the title against Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25. Despite attacking him before the match even began, once it was officially underway Mysterio won the title in just 21 seconds. Immediately afterward, the former champion declared, “I quit.”. He hasn’t wrestled for the WWE since.
Will Kane’s record ever be broken? Time will tell.
(MARCH 29, 2017 UPDATE: The Rock put down Wyatt Family member Erick Rowan in a mere six seconds in an impromptu match at WrestleMania 32. Surely, we’ll see an even quicker result sometime down the road.)
2. Andre The Giant body slams Big John Studd and avoids facing an early retirement (1985)
In the early 80s, Big John Studd made two declarations. One, he was the real giant of professional wrestling and two, no one could slam him. His most famous rival was undoubtedly Andre The Giant who he would feud with on and off for much of the decade. During a TV tag team match in December 1984, Studd and then-partner Ken Patera humiliated the Frenchman by cutting his long curly black hair while manager Bobby Heenan prevented SD Jones from entering the ring. An angry Andre vowed revenge.
The stipulations for Studd and Andre’s WrestleMania encounter in 1985 was very simple. Andre had an hour to achieve one goal: body slam Studd in the ring before the time limit ran out. If he won, he would earn $15,000. If he failed, he would have to retire from professional wrestling.
In retrospect, there was little suspense about what would happen. And indeed, in less than 10 minutes, Andre scooped up Studd and drove him into the mat. However, the finish itself would be significant for two reasons. Firstly, it transformed the body slam into the ultimate feat of strength. Whether it was a big man slamming another big man or a much smaller man slamming a much bigger man, it was a surefire way to make a babyface look like a superhero at a live supershow.
When Hulk Hogan powerslammed King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania 2 and scooped up Andre The Giant for body slams at WrestleMania 3 and 4, he convincingly looked like the strongest wrestler in the business. When John Cena was able to put Edge and The Big Show on his back to set up the Attitude Adjustment (essentially a variation of the body slam) in their Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 25, it evoked the same feeling.
Secondly, the retirement angle would resurface again and again at future events, even though some wrestlers would either not stay retired in the WWE for long or work for another promotion altogether. While JBL would publicly declare his WrestleMania 25 debacle to be his last right after he lost, others would quietly wrestle their final matches without telling the public.
At WrestleMania III, Rowdy Roddy Piper declared his Haircut Match with Adorable Adrian Adonis to be his last whether he won or lost. (Of course, it turned out to be premature. Piper has either wrestled or hosted Piper’s Pit segments at numerous other WrestleManias since 1989.)
After losing the World Tag Team Championships to Demolition at WrestleMania VI, The Colossal Connection came unglued. Both Haku and manager Bobby Heenan wrongly put the blame on Andre who was never tagged into the match. After taking care of both men who attacked him, Andre left the ring to cheers for the first time in three years. Although the threesome would do the same routine on the house show circuit in the Spring of 1990, Andre would never have a match on TV or at WrestleMania again.
At WrestleMania VII, both The Ultimate Warrior and The Macho King Randy Savage put their careers on the line in a classic battle that would see the former retire the latter. (Savage would be reinstated later in the year to work a program with Jake Roberts while The Warrior would disappear for almost a year after SummerSlam 1991 and again for several years in the early 90s. Ironically, Andre The Giant would be the only other wrestler who would successfully survive a career-ending match at WrestleMania.) (March 26, 2014 UPDATE: Thanks to his WM 29 victory against Brock Lesnar, Triple H didn’t have to retire, either.)
At WrestleMania 9, The Mega Maniacs failed to win the tag team titles from Money Inc. It would mark the last time Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake would ever wrestle on TV for the then-WWF. At WrestleMania 19, Stone Cold Steve Austin would enter the ring with his trademark attire. If you looked closely, you could see “OMR” on it. It stood for “One More Round”. Austin’s battle with The Rock would be his final match in the WWE.
The following year, a heavy-hearted Shawn Michaels would superkick a weeping Ric Flair out of an in-ring career with the WWE at WrestleMania 24 in perhaps the best match of that event. (Although Flair would continue to appear on TV right up until 2009, he would ultimately stay out of the ring until resuming his in-ring career at TNA.) At WrestleMania 26, during his famed rematch with The Undertaker, Michaels would once again come up short against The Dead Man. Because of a pre-match stipulation, it was Michaels’ final match.
At WrestleMania 28, Triple H faces The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match that’s being hyped as “the end of an era”. Will either man hang up their gear when it’s all over? If so, they’ll be honouring the most bittersweet of WrestleMania traditions.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 10, 2012
CORRECTION: It was Bart Gunn, not Billy, who Butterbean defeated in the Brawl For All Finals. The correct name now appears in the text. My apologies for the mistake.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 10, 2012
UPDATE: How could I forget Edge and his final match at WrestleMania 27? Shortly after retaining his World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio, he announced his retirement from in-ring action due to severe injuries.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 15, 2012