Although the WWE Universe has existed for 64 years now, it seems that most of the prominent and unforgettable moments in WWE history have happened starting from the 1980’s to today. The past 30 years have been more flashy and fast-paced, with seemingly nonstop entertainment. We’ve experienced moments of feeling overjoyed, and moments of being overcome by devastating loss and heartbreak. Although storylines have been enhanced in today’s programs, it always seems that the real life joys and struggles end up forcing the dramatic story lines to take a back seat in comparison to the genuine emotion we feel when beloved (or hated) wrestlers face real life experiences.
Much has happened in the last 30 years of WWE’s history. In addition to the soap opera-esque storylines, the fire, bright, flashing stadium lights, pump-up music, and flashy entrances, we have seen some very real, raw emotion in the ring.
Even through some unfortunately mundane storylines, the WWE Universe never fails to keep us on our toes, awaiting the next big and most memorable moment. We’ve seen devastating loss of life, health scares, and emotional retirements. However, we have also seen massive amounts of support, joy, success, mended relationships, and buried hatchets.
Fortunately for us, today’s technology allows us to feel as if we are front and center in the action, and document some of the most unforgettable moments that the WWE never fails to supply us with. Here is a list of 15 of the most unforgettable photos documenting some of the most emotional WWE moments ever.
15. Macho Man & Miss Elizabeth Reunite
Miss Elizabeth and Macho Man were a couple both on and off screen for quite some time until the storyline took a turn and had the couple part ways. In the early 90’s, Macho Man fought against the Ultimate Warrior in a retirement match, a match that Macho Man went into as a heel with Sensational Sherri as his manager. Macho Man lost the match and Sherri turned on him and kicked him while he was down. Miss Elizabeth was in the crowd watching, but could not bear to watch any longer. Elizabeth ran into the ring, pulling Sherri off of Macho Man before jumping into her former lover’s arms, reuniting the pair and rekindling their romance. Fans went wild for this very emotional moment.
14. Paige Wins Diva’s Title
Paige, a very popular female wrestler in NXT, made her WWE debut on the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania 30. The up and coming wrestler made her way into the ring during AJ Lee’s promo, before being challenged to a match by Lee. In a shocking turn of events, Paige managed to reverse a submission hold that she was in, and defeated the Diva’s Champion on the night of her debut! Once the match ended, Paige made her way up the ramp, visibly overcome with emotion as the crowd cheered wildly for her. It was an incredible moment for this very talented, very popular wrestler. It was an incredibly unexpected and very emotional moment for the new WWE Diva’s Champion.
13. Ultimate Warrior Shakes The Ropes One Last Time
On April 7, 2014, Ultimate Warrior entered the ring on Raw to address the fans regarding his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Obviously, the reason this photo and this moment are so emotional is due to the fact that the wrestling icon passed away just one day later. It seems haunting now to go back and watch this clip, as his appearance, coupled with his ominous speech about “every man’s heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath…” leaves many people wondering if he had any inclination that his final days were upon him.
The photograph above is of Ultimate Warrior showing his best effort in shaking the ropes one last time. Any long time fan can tell you that the display was heartbreaking, as it was very obvious that Warrior was struggling to shake them – a move that became iconic and effortless for him during his career. The entire segment is sad to watch, knowing what we know now; it is clear that his health and strength were in severe decline.
12. Jerry Lawler Has A Heart Attack During Broadcast
On a September 10, 2012 episode of Monday Night Raw, Jerry Lawler suddenly collapsed at the commentator’s table. A short while later, Michael Cole was shown on camera addressing the fans at home about what had been happening. He informed everyone that earlier in the program, Lawler had collapsed at his seat and was taken by stretcher into the back where medical personnel began performing CPR. At the time he was speaking, Cole still had no idea what the outcome of this situation would be, and can be seen with his eyes welling up and choking back tears as he stressed to the audience that this was not part of that night’s entertainment.
11. Edge Celebrates Christian’s World Heavyweight Championship Win
Lifelong best friends and a former tag team, Edge and Christian eventually went off to compete as singles, although Edge became the more successful of the two winning WWE’s World Championship on several occasions. Unfortunately, Christian never quite reached the level of success that his friend did. Not even a month after Edge retired, thus leaving the title vacant, Christian won a ladder match against Alberto Del Rio at Extreme Rules in 2011. Just when we thought Del Rio had the upper hand, Edge came to his friend’s side and distracted Del Rio, resulting in Christian winning the match – and the title. This photo depicts Edge joining his best friend in the ring with tears in his eyes in a very emotional celebration for Christian’s success.
10. Benoit And Guerrero Celebrate At Wrestlemania XX
Guerrero and Benoit are another example of real life friendship off screen. The two came over from WCW together and even made their debuts on the same night. A former cruiserweight, Guerrero reached a huge milestone in his career by defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Undisputed Championship. A month later, with Guerrero retaining his title against Kurt Angle, Benoit won his very first WWE world title against Shawn Michaels and Triple H. As Benoit was celebrating his win, with confetti falling from the rafters, the shot panned out to show Guerrero in the ring alongside his longtime friend, clapping and visibly ecstatic for both victories they had achieved – both being World Champions at Wrestlemania. The two had an emotional moment together to soak in the glory of all their hard work and dedication.
9. Shawn Michaels Forces Ric Flair to Retire
Months prior to Wrestlemania 24, Vince McMahon approached Ric Flair with a stipulation – after the very next match that Flair loses, he would be forced to retire. Flair decided that he wanted to fight the best of the best, and requested that his match be against Shawn Michaels, also known as “Mr. WrestleMania”. Not such a wise choice, Mr. Flair…
Flair and Michaels were good friends off screen, and the night before this match, Ric Flair had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Michaels stood in the corner and mouthed “I’m sorry, I love you” before hitting Flair with Sweet Chin Music and pinning and covering him right away for the 1-2-3. After the count, Michaels jumped back and hugged Flair in an emotional and bittersweet moment between friends. Flair rose to a standing ovation, crying as he embraced his family and made his way out of the ring.
8. Bret Hart And Shawn Michaels Make Up
These two superstars always had some sort of tension between them. Maybe it was Michaels’ drug-induced personality, or maybe it was a bit of jealousy or competitiveness. Over time, the tension gradually increased, and everyone remembers the Montreal Screwjob in 1997, yes? The resulting falling out between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart went on for over 12 years. One night on the first Monday Night Raw of 2010, it was announced that Bret Hart would appear on Raw for the first time since the Montreal Screwjob incident. While Hart was opening the show, Michaels came out into the ring and apologized to him, finally, and extended his hand in request for forgiveness. It was a very long awaited moment, and touching to see these two finally bury the hatchet and move on.
7. Edge’s Retirement
Edge was forced to retire due to a neck injury, under advisement by doctors that if he continued wrestling that he severely increased his risk of paralysis. He opened Raw by announcing his retirement one week after Wrestlemania 27 where he fought and won against Alberto Del Rio, retaining his title of World Heavyweight Champion. Fans could tell that Edge was holding back tears during his announcement, and we could tell that this was something that he absolutely did not want to do, but his health and safety relied on it and had to be his main priority. The live crowd, along with fans watching from home were shocked and devastated at the news. Edge gave a heartfelt speech explaining the reason for his retirement, and sharing his gratitude for his time in the WWE and for his fans standing by him in support before raising his arms in the air in a final farewell to his wrestling career.
6. Owen Hart’s Death
On May 23, 1999, during the live Over the Edge pay per view, Owen Hart met his demise in a tragic and untimely accident. In what was supposed to be an entertaining Blue Blazer act where Hart descended into the ring from the rafters, a faulty mechanism caused Hart to fall approximately 70 feet to his death. While some of the exact details of the event remain unclear, it has been reported that the original harness was “too slow” and affected the quality of the act. As a result, a more risky type of mechanism was created, one that supposedly several stunt coordinators refused to give their approval on. Although the event was live, those in charge of television programming managed to cut any evidence of the accident from the aired footage. However, images were captured of the aftermath anyway, and this photo of Hart being stretchered out of the arena is rather upsetting, knowing that the subject of the photo would soon be deceased.
5. Eddie Guerrero Raw Tribute
Eddie Guererro passed away suddenly on November 13th, 2005 in his sleep due to a heart condition. He was an overall entertaining wrestler, a great guy behind the scenes, and was beloved by both fellow wrestlers and fans alike. The very next episode of Raw following Guerrero’s death was a dedication to his life and his career. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment, aside from the touching video montage, the touching words given by his coworkers, and the heartbroken audience, was the moment we saw Chris Benoit wearing Guerrero’s “I’m Your Papi” shirt, visibly shaken and devastated by the death of his best friend. It was a somber sight, to see so many people so devastated by a loss.
4. Brock Lesnar Ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Winning Streak
The day that the Undertaker’s winning streak ended, is a day that will live on forever in wrestling history. At that point, by Wrestlemania 30, Undertaker spent close to 25 years of his life as a professional wrestler for the WWE. He is a beloved character, and a wrestling icon. When you think of Wrestlemania, the first thing that comes to mind is The Streak. Undertaker wins – period, end of story. For 21 years, that was how it went. Twenty one men have stood up and taken on the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, and 21 have fallen victim to the legendary talent. There have been some 5 star matches, and there were so many instances that there were close pinfalls. Our hearts were always in our throats wondering, “Will this be the end of The Streak? Will this be the match that Undertaker is finally defeated?” For years and years our hearts stopped in anticipation, but in 2014, Undertaker finally fell victim to Brock Lesnar.
3. SmackDown – September 11, 2001
SmackDown aired on September 13, 2001, just two days after the horrific events of September 11th. This turned out to be the very first live event broadcast on television in wake of the tragedy. The event opened up with wrestlers, referees, and other WWE officials walking down the entrance ramp and standing on the stage holding small American flags as Lillian Garcia sang the National Anthem. It was a very emotional, very patriotic moment captured on live television, and in this photograph we see Vince McMahon and The Rock front and center with their hands over their hearts as Lillian Garcia belted out the song of our nation. It is probably safe to assume that there was not a dry eye in the arena in this moment. A beautiful way to restart live broadcasting after such a debilitating attack on the United States.
2. Daniel Bryan’s Premature Retirement
Daniel Bryan became one of the most loved wrestling superstars of today’s era. His kind heart and relatable personality skyrocketed his popularity, particularly with younger audiences. Sadly, on February 8, 2016, the wrestling star was forced into retirement at the age of 34 after 16 years as a wrestler, and one too many concussions. Bryan admitted that he had been having quite severe seizures for a while, but couldn’t stand the thought of having to retire. He recruited his wife, Brie Bella, to conceal his secret as to not put his career in jeopardy just yet. However, his well being was at stake, and Bryan was forced to announce his retirement on Monday Night Raw. Bryan was greeted by a slew of “YES!” chants, and told the audience that he could actually feel their energy. After making his teary-eyed speech and soaking in his final moments in the ring, Bryan hoisted himself up on the ropes to chant his infamous “YES!” just one more time with his adoring fans.
1. Conner The Crusher
Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek was a 7-year-old boy battling cancer, and a die hard fan of WWE wrestling. The WWE brought the boy into their universe to honor his wishes to meet the superstars that he looked up to. Although there has been controversy surrounding the company’s motives behind their philanthropy in this case, the fact of the matter is that Connor’s life was made by meeting and interacting with his idols, namely Daniel Bryan. Connor even became the first child ever inducted into the Hall of Fame after being the first person to ever be given the Warrior Award. This photo of Connor and his all time favorite wrestler is enough to tug at just about anyone’s heart strings. Bryan embraced Connor and befriended him, and made the boy’s dreams come true.