Top 10 Most Anticipated Wrestlemania Matches Part 2
With the Rambling Road to Wrestlemania in full force I thought I would share with the world my Top 10 Wrestlemania matches. Now I know what you are thinking, every wrestling website worth their salt posts on of these around this time of year. That’s why I have an added twist to mine – CallingSpot’s Top 10 most anticipated Wrestlemania matches revisited. I am going to be discussing the matches that I was marking out the most for, since I started watching at Wrestlemania 14, looking at why I anticipated them so, the match themselves an revisiting them today. Some exceeded expectation, some disappointed. But first, who made the list? In part two we are going to look at numbers five to one of the most anticipated matches on a Wrestlemania card.
5 – Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg at Wrestlemania XX
Yes, you have read that right, we are kick starting the top 5 most anticipated Wrestlemaina matches of all time with a somewhat controversial nomination. Growing up on WCW in the late 90’s I was a huge mark for the original ‘streak’ and, despite his somewhat limited ring work, Bill Goldberg himself. Week in and week out Goldberg would smash through his opponents in record time, much to the crowds delight. Never before had there been such a famous undefeated run for a single wrestler or such a dominating force in wrestling – until Brock Lesnar showed up in WWE. Now by this point WCW was dead and gone, Goldberg was semi-retired and only working the occasional tour of Japan, and Brock Lesnar was brand new to the WWE coming from the NCAA and his amateur background. Following in the footsteps of Goldberg, Brock was an unstoppable force from the first time he stepped into a WWE ring and living up to the nickname given to him by Paul Heyman – “the next big thing”. So fast forward to Wrestlemania 20 and, to use an old cliché, we had the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
Now, to give a bit of background on the build to the match, Both men’s contracts were due to expire at the time of Wrestlemania 20 and the WWE were unsure if either star would be resigning (for different reasons) to stick around after the show. Brock Lesnar was strongly linked with a move to the NFL to (attempt to) become a professional football player. Goldberg had signed a 1 year deal, beginning the Monday after the previous year’s Wrestlemania , which was coming to an end at Wrestlemania 20. To make matters worse, shortly after the Royal Rumble, Goldberg had worked the maximum number of television appearances stipulated in his contract. So the WWE had a tough decision to make, they had to promote one of their main events for Wrestlemania, with one of the wrestlers not being on television and without knowing who to put over as one, or both men may be leaving. WWE made the choice to put a contingency plan in place and announced that Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the special guest referee for the match. So jumping back to 2004, a time when I wasn’t aware of the backstage politics affecting the match, I now had 3 of the toughest wrestlers I had ever seen in the same ring at the same time. I could not wait for Wrestlemania 20.
Now in the build to the match we saw Brock Lesnar help eliminate a very strong looking Goldberg from the Royal Rumble, although the former was not even in the match, to kick start the feud. Stone Cold interjected himself into the feud by assisting Goldberg in costing Brock the WWE Championship (to the late Eddie Guerrero), by giving him a ringside ticket to No Way Out. At this point, with Goldberg being off TV, Brock and Austin had a back and forth each week on TV to build the Wrestlemania match.
Before discussing the match itself, I want to digress for a moment to reflect a ‘how times have changed’ moment I had when watching this match back. The curtain jerk match for Wrestlemania 20 featured none other than a green John Cena receiving a tremendously positive reaction from the Madison Square Garden crowd ….weird. So, we see Goldberg snarling his way from the locker room to the ring, Austin on his little quad bike and Brock Lesnar sporting the kind of facial hair only worn by a man who can’t grown a real beard. Goldberg is incredibly over with the crowd on his way to the ring with the traditional “Goldberg, Goldberg” chants ringing out. Lesnar, on the other hand, is showered with taunts of “you sold out” chants, due to the fact that it is now public knowledge that this is his last night in WWE. JR was quick to dismiss this as just a “rumour”. The three men stand staring each other down for longer than you can imagine. When finally we do see a collar and elbow tie up, both men are quick to return to just staring each other down. Within minutes the crowd break into a very loud “boring” chant which Lesnar seems desperate to play up to. The booing sums up the entire match which, really, leaves very little else to be said about it as the two men continue to amble their way through the affair. If you ever hear a wrestler talking about having the crowd in the palm of their hand then this match was the exact opposite of that.
The match ended with Stone Cold going over both men. Goldberg won the contest, much to the crowd’s dismay as he had buried himself so badly during the match that the live crowd had turned on him too, but by this point the outcome of the match was irrelevant. After the bell Austin proceeded to deliver a stunner to both the departing superstars to give the crowd something to cheer. It was a bitter disappointment for every fan that had paid to watch the event. The fact that both men simply did not care was abundantly clear (with Brock Lesnar sticking a middle finger to the crowd at one point) leading to an absolute car crash of a match. It was never going to be a 5 star classic but if booked right and handled professionally by both employees, it could have been a classic. Shame.
4 – The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18
The match was billed as being icon vs icon, and in all honesty there is not a more apt way of describing The Rock vs ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan. I am a firm believer that Hulk Hogan is the biggest name in the history of professional wrestling even to this day, regardless of any of the mainstream media controversy that has surrounded the Hulkster in recent years. 10 years ago this fact was not even up for debate. Hulk had dominated the 80’s when Hulkamania was at its peak, revolutionised the wrestling landscape in the 90’s with the NWO and made a glorious return to the WWE in the noughties. But in his absence a new breed of superstars had risen, fronted by Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, to take wrestling into the new millennium while breaking as many records as possible. I could write all day about the accomplishments of both men and would never do either of them the justice they deserve. Quite simply, this match was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ matches. But could the build and match itself live up to the expectations of millions of fans?
As the story went, Vince McMahon brought back the 3 founding members of the NWO – Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hollywood Hulk Hogan – as a ‘cancer’ which would destroy the WWE. Of course this begged the question “why would a billionaire want to destroy his own empire?” to which I have no answer, so let’s not worry about that. Hulk was positioned as the bad guy based on this alone and the whole build to the match was simply the question that now Hogan has returned, can he defeat the new dog in the yard? It was a classic build that was highlighted by ‘that’ handshake when Hogan accepted The Rock’s challenge and the two icons stood nose to nose.
Almost 70,000 people filled the Toronto Skydome to see a card that, on paper, would see Triple H take on Chris Jericho for the undisputed WWE championship in the main event. Every single fan in that area however was there for one reason – to see two generations collide in the ‘real’ main event. Hogan came to the ring to a thunderous pop, despite being the heel in the match. Conversely The Rock, who at this stage was taking increasing frequent stints of time away from WWE to visit Hollywood, was on the receiving end of a hostile reception. Once the match began this became even more apparent with the crowd overwhelmingly favouring Hogan. It would seem that this took even The Rock by surprise but being ever the professional The Rock played up to this, taking up a more heelish role in the match. At one point The Rock striped Hogan of his weight lifting belt and proceeded to whip him with it. Both men put on a clinic in wrestling psychology in a match that could be used as a blueprint in how to build a crowd up into a frenzy.
The Rock went on to win the match in a ‘passing of the torch’ moment, which was absolutely the right thing to do. Both men had an emotional handshake to display the respect they had for each other before Hogan had his Wrestlemania moment and officially turn face. The remaining two members of the NWO stormed the ring and ambushed Hogan, only for The Rock to return to team with the Hulkster to stave off their attack. The Rock then handed the ring to Hogan for his traditional pose-down for the live crowd, who lapped it up. The match exceeded all expectation and is still an emotional rollercoaster to this day.
3 – Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker 2 at Wrestlemania 26
So, 12 months earlier at the 25th anniversary or Wrestlemania, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had the greatest match in the history of that show. Now the two icons are going to do battle once again but this time the stakes are higher. Shawn Michaels had to put his career on the line in order to secure one more attempt at ending the streak as The Undertaker initially refused. Having “wrestled a near perfect match” and making “just one mistake” Shawn Michaels was convinced that he knew how to end the streak and this obsession had consumed him for the last year. The WWE dubbed it the “most anticipated match of all time” and few could argue this point. Fans were going into Wrestlemania 26 with 2 questions on their mind – Who will win and how can both men top the career defining outing from last year?
The answer to the latter was that they couldn’t, although to be fair this was almost a futile challenge. The match itself was still very good when viewed as a standalone match, but is incomparable to the first effort. Both men had a solid outing and showed why they are two genuine legends of the WWE.
“As the sun sets over the Arizona desert, is the sun setting on the career of Shawn Michaels?” Yes Michael Cole it was, and 72,000 fans gave him a standing ovation in the process. Thank you Shawn.
2 – Shawn Michaels vs Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14 for the WWF Championship
“The Austin era has begun” proclaimed Jim Ross as Stone Cold swung the classic ‘winged eagle’ high above his head. Now this match may be an unpopular choice for such a prestigious spot on the top 10 so let me explain why. This was my first Wrestlemania as a young wrestling fan. Shawn Michaels was the man who had made me fall in love with wrestling 6 months earlier when I witnessed the first ever Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker. Stone Cold was the toughest SOB I had ever seen in my life after he started a brawl with Mike Tyson who, up until that point, had been the original toughest SOB I had ever seen. Add all these factors together and this young wrestling fan is staying up until 4am (UK time) to see what happens.
Steve Austin had been on fire going for the whole year leading into this match, after going under against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13, despite a serious neck injury that had threatened to ruin his career and forcing Steve to take time off. Turning a negative into a true positive, Steve Austin spent his time injured feuding on screen with Vince McMahon (who was now the biggest heel in the company after ‘screwing’ Bret) which would catapult him into the main event. Austin dominated and won the Royal Rumble to earn a main event match for Shawn Michaels’ WWF championship. To draw media attention to the match, the WWF managed to pull off a massive coup by bringing in Mike Tyson to add fuel to the fire. Tyson was announced as the guest enforcer for the match and was soon inducted into Shawn Michaels’ stable – D-Generation X. Tyson brought with him so much media attention and hype that nothing in WWE since can be compared to it. The former boxing champion of the world was an international superstar and legitimate hard-man that added a whole new dynamic to Wrestlemania 14.
The match had a big fight feel with the ‘DX band’ playing Michael entrance music and all 3 men looking in fantastic shape. In the words of Steve Austin, in his recent documentary, “the match was what it was”. It will never go down as the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time but when you consider Shawn had a very serious back injury (so serious he would retire for 4 years in the wake of the match) it was pretty damn good. Mike Tyson unexpectedly counted the 3 count and called the match down the middle when called upon. After the match Michaels’ asked “why” and tried to blind sight Tyson but Tyson was equal to it and landed a devastating right hand, knocking HBK out.
Rumours of backstage politics surrounded this match with suggestions that The Undertaker had to threaten Shawn Michaels in case he went out there and did not do the job. Shawn has made no secret of his attitude at this time in his career. The reason I mention this is that, watching the match back, it’s a shame that after Shawn Michaels is ‘knocked out’ by Tyson, the camera shows him lying on the canvas, chewing his gum and scrunching his face up. I still love this match, even to this day, but feel it did not fully live up to its potential as a spectacle but once you consider the circumstances this is understandable.
1 – The Rock vs John Cena at Wrestlemania 28
Yes that’s right – The number one most anticipated match, the match that these two articles have been building towards, has not even happened yet. Being dubbed the biggest match in Wrestlemania history, both The Rock and John Cena have massive expectations to meet in Miami on April 1st – and I think they will deliver. Never before has there been such a buzz for one match for a full year in advance. WWE has literally built the whole show around this match and let’s not kid ourselves, this one match is the reason we will be buying the PPV. Much like Hogan did with The Rock ten years ago, both men are icons representing two different eras in wrestling going head to head in a battle for superiority. Unlike Hogan/Rock however, Rock/Cena differs when it comes to fan loyalty. Both Hogan and Rock spent most of their careers adored by wrestling fans where as Cena is genuinely hated by a large portion of fans. Add to that the fact that The Rock is in his home town of Miami as well as Cena being subject to more hatred than normal and you have the potential for a very explosive environment for the biggest match ever booked.
I have said it in my 2nd article on this very website and will say it again – John Cena is THE most important man in wrestling today. The Rock is without a doubt the most important wrestler of all time who is (realistically) still available for a Wrestlemania match with Cena. It’s one of those matches that every single fan cares who wins and has been asking that very question all year – “who will win?”. Sometimes as smart fans we don’t get to just be a fan again, like when we first fell in love with wrestling. But on April 1st, in the main event of Wrestlemania 28, wherever you are in the world I invite you join me in just sitting back and being a fan.
Thanks for reading guys – would love some feedback. Which matches you agree on, disagree on and which you would of added into your top 10. Drop me a line @CallingSpots
Cheers kids – Rich x