Biggest Wins That Changed WrestleMania History

WrestleMania means more than wrestling. It's an event renowned around the world as being the ultimate showcase of the immortals. It's the one time a year when even the most pessimistic of wrestling fans will tune in to see which "moment" will define that year's biggest PPV. For most wrestlers, 'Mania is considered the pinnacle — the Super Bowl of wrestling. Whether they're opening the show and getting the crowd pumped up or competing in the main event for the title, everyone wants to get on the card and be a part of the magic.

While WrestleMania has been a fundamental part of the wrestling calendar since it debuted in 1985, there are some matches that have truly stood the test of time. They're more than high spots or fan-favorite segments, as these bouts have changed the course of wrestling history in the process. From Brock Lesnar sending The Undertaker's streak straight to hell to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin creating a whole new era of domination, here are the biggest wins that changed WrestleMania history.

The Ultimate Warrior running wild on Hulk Hogan

WrestleMania VI's claimed attendance of over 67,000 people (via Cagematch) was legendary. The main event wasn't bad, either, as it pitted the Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Warrior, against the WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan, in a winner-takes-all match. The Hulkster had been on top of the wrestling world for years at that point, being the face of the company and the industry as a whole. Creeping up behind him from parts unknown was the Warrior, whose high-energy entrance and Greek god-inspired physique had made him a major hit with the fans. The two gladiators duked it out in the squared circle colosseum for almost 25 minutes, as the Warrior crushed the might of Hulkamania and secured all the gold. This signaled the first time in the modern era when Hogan was pinned without any shenanigans — losing fair and square to his opponent.

Despite Hogan and Warrior not being fans of each other in real life, Warrior spoke fondly of the match, explaining how the natural chemistry resulted in a magic moment. Hogan, though, took a potshot at Warrior's drawing power, telling Fighting Spirit Magazine: "You gave the belt to The Ultimate Warrior — I don't want to drop a bunch of names — and right away the revenue went down."

The rise of John Cena

From the moment John Cena debuted on WWE television, everyone could see there was something special about him. He carried himself like a main event superstar and instantly connected with the fans — both with his entertaining promos and Five Moves of Doom. Vince McMahon made him work for the big one, though, as the Doctor of Thuganomics spent three years building up a name for himself before he finally won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21.

While JBL wasn't the biggest name Cena conquered on the grandest stage, it was a pivotal match since it symbolized the changing of the guard within the WWE. Cena's victory occurred on the same night Batista picked up the win over Triple H to secure his first World Heavyweight Championship. From a historical perspective, WrestleMania 21 marked the rise of a legend, as it etched Cena's name into the pantheon of champions. It was the first important chapter in a storied career bursting with jorts and caps, as well as a healthy attitude adjustment of hustle, loyalty, and respect.

Becky Two Belts

WrestleMania 35 was a jam-packed card featuring 16 mouth-watering matches. Closing the event was a winner-takes-all triple-threat bout for the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships. It was also the first time in 'Mania history where the ladies would be headlining the main event, as the baddest woman on the planet, Ronda Rousey, took on two of the Four Horsewomen, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.

After 20 minutes of non-stop action, Lynch pinned Rousey to take both titles, heralding the beginning of the Becky Two Belts era. It also gave Lynch the WrestleMania moment she deserved, as she had become one of the most popular wrestlers in the world in the lead-up to this gargantuan win. Unfortunately, the match's ending was mired in controversy, as the finish appeared to be botched, with Rousey's shoulders clearly lifted off the mat while the referee counted to three. Of course, fans took to the hate machine known as Twitter to air their grievances about the finish (via USA Today); however, time heals all hurt fan feelings, and this match has come to be remembered as a monumental turning point for the careers of Lynch and Flair.

Seth Rollins cashes in

Halfway into WrestleMania 31, Seth Rollins wasn't having the best of times. While he and Randy Orton burned down the house with a match for the ages, most people tend to remember it for the incredible hangtime RKO that won it for the Viper. Bruised and left licking his wounds, the former Shield member seemed like he would have to wait another year for his big WrestleMania moment ... until he didn't.

In the heat of the main event clash between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Rollins decided to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase while both men were down and out. Hesitating for a second, Rollins almost appeared to have lost his chance, as Lesnar lifted him up for a devastating F-5, but Reigns speared the Beast Incarnate out of his MMA boots. A Curb Stomp on Reigns a beat later, and Rollins celebrated by swinging the gold over his head. Considering the build-up for the show, no one predicted that the future Monday Night Messiah would be standing on top of the wrestling mountain by the end of that eventful evening. Years later, Rollins revealed it was his idea to cash in when he did.

Kofi Kingston wins the big one

When fans look back on Kofi Kingston's career, it will be a fascinating discussion. The high-flying performer debuted on the ECW brand in 2007 and has been a constant on WWE television ever since then. Throughout this period, Kingston electrified fans with his in-ring style and established himself as one of the most popular wrestlers in the company with The New Day. Yet, in such a well-rounded career, Kingston's presence in the WWE has always gravitated around the mid-card, despite him being a talent the fans have been behind forever.

The biggest moment in Kingston's career arrived at WrestleMania 35, when he beat Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship in a 23-minute rocker of a match. It wasn't only the quality of the bout that mattered here, but also the deafening reaction afterwards. The majority of the audience at the MetLife Stadium wanted to see a Kingston win, and the roar that erupted when he got the three count was one of the biggest pops in 'Mania history. This was certainly one of the times when a "you deserve it" chant was merited. Even if Kingston never gets to hold the biggest prize again, Kofi-Mania ran wild in 2019.

Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart prove they are iron men

Most 'Mania matches center around an angle or hook. It can be anything from someone wanting to retire a legend to the desire to break the streak of a supposedly zombie wrestler. However, there are few matches about who really is the best wrestler in the world. In 1996, that's exactly what "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels and Bret "The Hitman" Hart wanted to prove at WrestleMania XII. Their real-life animosity aside, these two were the top wrestlers of their generation, so this was the equivalent of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James having a face-off to determine who is the best.

As two babyfaces, the build-up to their Iron Man Match was simple and involved addressing the burning question: who really is the best? For an hour and change, Hart and Michaels put on a wrestling clinic, taking the audience on a storytelling journey that kept everyone gripped to the edge of their seats. In the end, Michaels tuned up the band and hit some Sweet Chin Music to claim the win over Hart and become WWF Champion for the first time. While these two might not have been the best of friends behind the scenes, their chemistry in the ring was unparalleled. This was a pure wrestling match boasting two Hall of Famers in their absolute prime.

The Rock smells what Hulk Hogan's cooking

When Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the nWo strolled into the WWE in 2002 with a too sweet attitude, no one knew what to expect. After all, Hogan's politicking had been one of the death knells in WCW, with the legend often being accused of an unwillingness to put over the next generation. By the time he arrived in WWE, it was The Rock's yard. Pairing these two icons up was like printing money, but many feared what would happen behind the scenes. Would Hogan refuse to put The Rock over? Or would Hogan the politician would end The Great One's career through whispers and rumors?

In the end, none of that needed to be a concern, as The Rock and Hogan put on the definition of a match for the ages. While it might not have possessed the technicality of a Michaels-Hart bout, it did something really well: it read the room. Going into WrestleMania X8, The Rock was the babyface and Hogan the heel; however, this shifted on the night as the audience got behind Hogan before the bell rang. The Rock played it by ear, allowing Hogan's face turn to be organic and wrestling more heelish to complement his opponent. After 16 minutes of two titans slugging it out, The Rock came out on top, but the match did something else, too: it showed Hogan still had a lot left in the tank.

Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat put on a masterclass

It's a tragedy that "The Macho Man" Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat had to be around in the Hulkamania era. It's not because they were inferior in skill or talent — they most certainly weren't — but it's because they failed to get the acclaim and respect they deserved at the time. Now, decades later, wrestlers cite their work for pushing the boundaries of athleticism and changing the game.

WrestleMania III might have been all about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, but it was Savage and Steamboat's clash for the Intercontinental title that stole the whole show. At a little over 14 minutes, which is approximately the same amount of time it takes Roman Reigns to walk to the ring nowadays, these two had the longest match on the card. They put on a masterclass of speed and aggression, as no one could take their eyes off the action. In the end, Steamboat came out on top, but the result didn't matter here since both performers walked out with enhanced reputations after that impressive exhibition.

Brock Lesnar breaks the streak

At WrestleMania, The Undertaker was a mythical being. The granddaddy of them all was his show, and his streak of 21 victories at the biggest yearly event in professional wrestling became the stuff of legend. Every year, challengers would step up and promise to finally put a nail in his coffin, but they'd fail at the last hurdle as he'd summon the power of the urn to defeat legends such as Triple H, Edge, CM Punk, and Shawn Michaels.

However, this all changed at WrestleMania XXX, when Brock Lesnar claimed a pinfall victory over the Deadman — clean in the middle of the ring. The fans couldn't believe it, either, leading to the creation of the Shocked Undertaker Guy meme. While Lesnar was certainly a big-enough name to be the one to break the fabled streak, many fans wondered why the WWE didn't use the opportunity to elevate another younger talent who could have used a victory over the Undertaker to skyrocket their career. The Undertaker agreed with this sentiment, telling The Dallas Morning News: "I don't know if Brock was the right guy. I like Brock, me and Brock are friends. I don't know that Brock needed that win. Brock was a bona fide superstar at that point. So, I don't know that he needed it. Roman Reigns definitely, that was the right call. I just wish he may have been first."

Yes! Yes! Yes!

The WWE works in mysterious ways. Before arriving in the company, Bryan Danielson performed around the world, capturing titles and becoming renowned as the best technical wrestler alive. When he debuted in WWE as Daniel Bryan, the company tried to take him down a peg, pawning him off as some unknown rookie who could learn a thing or two from The Miz. For several years, it appeared as if Bryan would rot in the WWE system and never reach the top of the card.

However, Bryan proved the adage of "being too good to fail." He got himself over with the fans through his in-ring work and charismatic character, and the WWE couldn't ignore him any longer. He won the gold, but would he be able to go one step further than fellow indie darling CM Punk and headline 'Mania? The answer was an empathetic yes, yes, yes! At WrestleMania XXX, Bryan defeated both Randy Orton and Batista in a triple-threat contest to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It wasn't only a victory for Bryan and the fans, but also all the other indie wrestlers who'd been snubbed by the WWE over the years.

The Undertaker ends HBK's career

Before Brock Lesnar ended the streak, many fans believed "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels would be the one to do it. After all, he and The Undertaker had one of the greatest all-time matches at WrestleMania 25, where HBK fell just short of defeating the Deadman. So when Michaels put his career on the line to have one more shot at breaking the streak at WrestleMania 26, any rational person would have put their money on Mr. WrestleMania to make one more iconic moment at 'Taker's expense.

Like the year before, HBK and the Deadman matched each other at every turn. The emotions seesawed throughout, as the fans understood the gravity of this contest. No matter who won in the end, we all would lose, as it would change the status quo of the wrestling industry forever. The Undertaker threw everything he had at Michaels, but HBK refused to give up. In a goosebumps-inducing moment that's become immortalized in the minds of every wrestling fan, Michaels asked 'Taker to finish him off once and for all. A Tombstone later and the career of the icon, the main event, the showstopper was over. (Not counting that match in Saudi Arabia, which he now regrets.)

Steve Austin loses but starts the Attitude Era

When discussing the origins of the Attitude Era, most people will point to the formation of the controversial D-Generation X or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's various middle fingers to Vince McMahon as the main starting points. But this period of mature and more realistic storytelling began much earlier at WrestleMania 13. At the time, Bret "The Hitman" Hart was still one of the most popular babyfaces in the world. The Submission Match against Austin had been a long time coming, since the Texas Rattlesnake had stuck his nose in Hart's business time and time again, even costing him the WWF Championship in the process.

For all intents and purposes, this should have been a clear-cut case of Hart getting his revenge on Austin, with the fans cheering him on to victory. However, the crowd at Rosemont Horizon rewrote history that night by choosing Austin as their guy. The fans appreciated Austin's never-say-die attitude, even when he passed out from the loss of blood. Hart's win set up his heel turn, which helped to reinvigorate his career, while the loss didn't hurt Austin in the slightest; instead, it helped to establish him as a tough SOB and the next big superstar in the wrestling biz.

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