On Sunday April 3rd, WrestleMania will be celebrating its thirty-second anniversary. Over the past thirty-plus years, a number of incidents have taken place that shocked, disappointed, amazed or caught fans off guard. While not all of the incidents were appreciated by fans, they certainly got them talking. What is interesting is that some of the moments just seemed to happen, and created a response. Sometimes fan reaction wasn’t seen coming when you consider who was involved in the matches. Some of the most notable wrestlers that performed at WrestleMania were jeered and there was no way to see it coming. Other times, there were moments that no one predicted involving heel and face turns. These things are what have made WrestleMania the most talked about event of the year.
Vince McMahon will say that anything can happen in the WWE, and when it comes to WrestleMania, that’s true. WrestleMania is often referred to as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling and each year it proves to be so. With the pageantry and attention given to the event, there are still moments of true surprise. It is the one event a year that the promotion generally builds around. So while a number of moments may tend to bore or annoy fans because they are left disappointed, a number of moments were unexpected even by the most attentive of wrestling fans. Which moments caught us most off guard? Here are the 15 Most Unexpected Moments in WrestleMania History:
15. The crowd reaction to the Chris Jericho and Triple H match at WrestleMania 18
WrestleMania X8 took place in Toronto, Canada, the last time WrestleMania took place north of the border. It was during that event that ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan faced off against The Rock in what many thought would see fans showing their support for The Rock. But the fans threw their support behind Hogan, and in the process turned him face! It was a momentous occasion as it was the first time these man had faced each other, and each represented the success of the WWE in different decades.
The problem was that coming off the events of that match up, the crowd reaction for the Triple H and Chris Jericho match was completely flat. It was the better match of the evening, and yet the audience didn’t respond as such. The unfortunate part was that it wouldn’t have mattered who was following up The Rock/Triple H match up, they would have suffered the same fate. Canadian wrestling fans were thought to have hijacked the event with their reaction to Hogan/Rock because they didn’t show that same admiration for fellow Canadian Jericho.
14. The Ford Bronco chase between Roddy Piper and Goldust at WrestleMania 12
One of the more unusual events to take place during a WrestleMania involved a wrestler turned actor and a wrestler whose gimmick was tied to the movies. During WrestleMania XII, Rowdy Roddy Piper faced Goldust in what was called the Hollywood Backlot match. The match was essentially a street fight between the two. It appeared as though it was more an action sequence in a film, only it took place literally behind the arena with the two of them. Goldust first appeared and attempted to run over Piper with his gold-colored car. While it was a shocking sight, what was more shocking was how art attempted to imitate life.
In a car chase scene from a movie, Piper got into his white Ford Bronco and chased Goldust on the highway. This took place shortly after OJ Simpson’s flight from police in a white Ford Bronco was a prominent story in the news. Thus, WWE chose to replicate this moment during the WrestleMania event. While fans expected a staged fight away from the arena, fans couldn’t have anticipated that this was going to play out the way it did.
13. The nWo/DX Invasion between Sting and Triple H at WrestleMania 31
At WrestleMania 31, wrestling fans were looking forward to seeing something they had never seen before. For the first time ever, the icon Sting was going to compete in a WWE ring and finally have his WrestleMania moment. While many probably believed it was never going to happen, it in fact did. Sting, who was known as the franchise of WCW, was poised to face off against Triple H. The match itself was surprisingly quite good considering the ages of the parties involved.
What fans probably hadn’t expected was the number of risks that the 54-year-old Sting and 44-year-old Triple H were going to take during the match. But while those were surprising, an even more unanticipated event was the other parties that got involved in the match. WrestleMania weekend is when WWE has its annual Hall of Fame induction, and this year involved the induction of Kevin Nash. What transpired during the match was an nWo and Degeneration X face-off, as both parties battled outside the ring and even interfered in the match itself. While it was understood that Degeneration X would be standing by Triple H, we couldn’t really understand why the nWo would be standing by Sting.
12. First ever Money In The Bank at WrestleMania 21
WrestleMania XXI was known for being when they went to Hollywood. It should, however, be known for when the Money in the Bank stipulation turned the company on its ear. Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Edge, Kane and Christian all took part in this inaugural match up. While the spots that occurred in that match have been replicated time and time again, when it first happened fans stood up and took notice. Moments like challengers jumping from the top rope to the outside to take out multiple opponents, or climbing a ladder while on an incline and striking others were memorable.
A couple of the more notable spots were when Shelton Benjamin performed a t-bone suplex on Edge off the top of the ladder, and when he ran up an inclined ladder to hit Jericho with a clothesline. The match worked as well as it did because it involved the men that it did. Jericho, Benoit, Benjamin, Edge and Christian were all capable of taking risks that made that match work. Also, Edge and Christian’s past work in ladder matches was useful during this match up. In the end, Edge came out victorious, becoming the first person to win the Money in the Bank Match.
11. Rey Mysterio defeats JBL in 20 seconds at WrestleMania 25
At WrestleMania XXV, JBL faced Rey Mysterio for the Intercontinental Championship. Intercontinental Champion JBL was one of the better heels in the WWE at that time. He got lots of heat regularly, and once again did so during his walk to the ring. He boasted that he was essentially the greatest champion ever that he was a wrestling God, and spent the better part of two and a half minutes talking about where he will stand in wrestling history.
Mysterio came out with the colour and pageantry that fans think of when they see him in a match, taking about a minute and a half to come to the ring, after JBL took almost three minutes. So four minutes into their appearance, the bell hasn’t even officially begun. Then, after being attacked before the match began, Mysterio quickly won and walked out the champion after a quick recovery, 619 and splash to end the match.
10. Steve Austin’s heel turn at the end of WrestleMania 19
If there was ever a moment that fans didn’t see coming it was the union of Vince McMahon and Steve Austin after years of animosity. At WrestleMania 19, The Rock faced Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWE Heavyweight Championship in the main event. During that main event most believed there was going to be a renewed alliance between The Rock and McMahon, but it did not end as fans anticipated. As the match reached its climax, McMahon came out and gave Austin a steel chair to use. Now, fans may have anticipated him using it to knock out McMahon, based on their previous run-ins with one another.
After receiving the chair from McMahon, Austin proceeded to repeatedly smash The Rock with it, beating him down so badly that he was unable to continue. As The Rock laid unconscious in the ring, Austin pinned him for the count of three and recaptured the title in the process. After the match, Austin and McMahon shook hands and enjoyed a beer with one another, revealing their new found alliance. With everything that both men had put each other through, to see them aligned with one another couldn’t be seen coming.
9. The double turn at WrestleMania 13 between Bret Hart and Steve Austin
One of the greatest matches in the career of both Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret The Hitman Hart was their match-up at WrestleMania 13. The match showcased not only Bret, but Austin as well. During the match we noticed that the action was all over the place. Austin was the clear heel, and regardless of what he said and did, he was getting jeered by the fans because Bret was the babyface who overcame whatever Austin did. What we ended up receiving was one of the most unanticipated moments in WrestleMania history.
As the match was drawing to a close, Hart had a bloodied Austin in the sharpshooter, all set for him to tap out. But Austin didn’t tap out, he passed out as blood ran down his face and through his teeth. After this, fans saw Austin differently; he showed more heart in defeat than Bret did in victory. After the match was over, Bret showed his frustration by taking a steel chair and beating down a wounded Austin as he laid unconscious in the ring.
8. The crowd reaction to Brock Lesnar and Goldberg match at WrestleMania 20
One of the more anticipated matches in WWE was between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX. It was built up as two of the most dominant men in the sport facing each other. Questions arose as to how Goldberg would do against the strength of Lesnar and vice versa. The match was refereed by Stone Cold Steve Austin, so there was a great deal of star power tied to it.
With the names involved and the popularity of each man, the match was going to get attention. But what no one anticipated was that rumors prior to the event were circulating that this would indeed be the last match for both men in WWE. Two of the more notable men in wrestling were both leaving; Lesnar has since returned to wrestling on a limited schedule. Due to the imminent departures of the combatants was well known, fans in attendance were not responsive to the match in the least. It didn’t matter what either man did, fans just didn’t care and booed unmercifully.
7. Hulk Hogan winning title at WrestleMania 9
The Bret Hart/Yokozuna match at WrestleMania IX was a fairly good match, all things considered. While many will question Zuna’s mobility, in this match his moves and ability to sell his offense were truly something to be admired. When we add to that how Bret Hart was able to mount an offense and still sell Yokozuna’s offense, both of them were able to tell a convincing story. What fans couldn’t have anticipated was Hulk Hogan’s involvement at the end of the match.
As many fans will recall, Yokozuka defeated Hart with the help of outside interference by Mr. Fuji. Hulk Hogan then came out to try and aid Hart, resulting in Mr. Fuji immediately putting the title on the line against Hogan. Hart, recovering on the outside, motioned for Hogan to go after Yokozuna. The brief encounter saw Hogan not only defeat Yokozuna, but capture the WWF Heavyweight title.
6. Sheamus defeating Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28
At WrestleMania XXVIII, Daniel Bryan‘s character was in a very different place. His character was that of a heel involved with AJ Lee, who he treated poorly during their entire time together. Lee often acted timid and would frequently be berated by Bryan publicly, raising the ire of fans. On the opposite side was “The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus who had been a heel, but was now among the top faces in the company at the time.
The match between them was for the World Heavyweight Championship, which Sheamus was challenging for after winning the Royal Rumble. Just as the match was about to begin, Bryan was given a good luck kiss by Lee, turned around and walked into a brogue kick. Sheamus pinned Bryan and won the title. While it wasn’t a surprise that Sheamus defeated the champion, it was the length of time it took. The match lasted a record eighteen seconds. Fans now may have a hard time believing how Daniel Bryan lost a championship match in less than a minute.
5. Ultimate Warrior defeating Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 6
WrestleMania VI it was a battle of two of the biggest names in wrestling, when the Ultimate Warrior took on WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. At the time, Warrior was the Intercontinental Champion and immensely popular. Despite all his popularity, having him face Hulk Hogan for the championship at WrestleMania was incredible. It was also hard to believe that the main event had two babyfaces battle one another.
And while today many people would like to say that they knew Warrior was going to win, go back almost twenty-five years to see how surprised a number of fans were to see Hogan get pinned in the middle of the ring, clean. While some may now believe it wasn’t a moment that Warrior deserved, it will still stand as moment we couldn’t have seen coming.
4. Trish Stratus turning on Chris Jericho after match with Christian at WrestleMania 20
From the file of “we didn’t see that coming” there is the heel turn of Trish Stratus. Leading up to the Christian and Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania XX, fans had seen Stratus involved in an on-screen relationship with Chris Jericho. The feud had begun when Stratus began to develop feelings for Jericho, and Christian attacked Stratus, causing Jericho to fight for her honor. Much like any man fighting for what’s right and seeking retribution, Jericho went after Christian.
However, it was during the match where Jericho was trying to defend Stratus’ honor that the swerve happened. She stated that the reason she turned on Jericho was that she wanted to be with a “real man” and that Jericho was nothing more than a “love sick puppy”. We didn’t see the turn coming because nothing Christian did warranted Stratus’ supporting actions. Jericho has been equally convincing as a face and a heel, but at this particular moment his character was completely caught off guard by what Stratus and Christian planned.
3. Ultimate Warrior returns at WrestleMania 8
During his rise in the mid to late 1980s, The Ultimate Warrior was one of the biggest draws the WWF had at the time, including Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. When he captured the WWF Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania VI, for as many fans that were pleased with that result, there were just as many that were surprised that it even happened. Warrior ended up leaving the WWF amid turmoil and a poor relationship with the company’s administration, so what took place at WrestleMania VIII made fans pop out of their seats.
At the culmination of the Sid Justice/Hulk Hogan match up, Hogan was facing a beat down from Sid and Papa Shango. That beat down happened until a familiar song rang through the overhead speakers, signalling the return of The Ultimate Warrior. As the Warrior charged to the ring, he looked very different from how fans had remembered him. Questions were raised as to whether this was the same wrestler that was the Ultimate Warrior in the past, but it was. With much shorter hair and a smaller frame, the Warrior was welcomed back by the fans. It was as if he hadn’t left.
2. Hulk Hogan slamming Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3
At the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan, the WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan faced Andre The Giant for the title. While the match itself was less than stellar considering who the workers in the match were, there was a moment that fans couldn’t have seen coming.
As the match was reaching its climax and Hogan was “hulking up,” preparing to make his triumphant comeback against the seven-foot-plus Giant from Grenoble, a feat never anticipated took place. Hogan picked up the over five hundred pound Andre and bodyslammed him to the mat. Critics often say that it was more of a hip toss, but the fact remained that the bodyslam caught everyone off by guard. The feud initially came about out of jealousy that Andre had towards Hogan because he didn’t defend the title against him. The slam still stands as one of the most iconic moments in WrestleMania lore.
1. Brock Lesnar ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania XXX was one of the biggest in the history of the event’s existence. One particular match which took place featured The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. Fans will recall that each year the build to WrestleMania also included a question that is asked: Will the streak continue? The streak referred to Undertaker’s WrestleMania win streak, which by this time was at twenty-one. But more and more questions were raised whether The Undertaker’s body could physically stand up to the punishment that Brock Lesnar could inflict.
And indeed, during the match The Dead Man faced a barrage of punishment. But we had seen this narrative before: Undertaker is subjected to punishment only to kick out and come back to win in the end. This year seemed likely to be more of the same…only it wasn’t. After receiving an F5 for the third time, The Undertaker’s shoulders were counted down for the 1…2…3. Paul Heyman, the advocate of Brock Lesnar, slid in the ring, shock and disbelief on his face. The streak was over. The reaction by fans in attendance mirrored that same shock and disbelief.