Everyone who watches wrestling probably has their own personal list of the firsts that mattered most to them, depending on when they grew up watching and what era meant most to them. However, for this list, we have taken a larger picture approach.
The saying goes, “there is a first time for everything” and that is just as true in professional wrestling as it is in every other aspect of life. From things you never thought you would see happen (check out number two on the list) to things that we now take for granted.
Some of the firsts have social and cultural significance and others are just fun facts that - to paraphrase C+C Music Factory - might make you go hmmmm. And that was all taken into account when deciding which firsts to include and in what order to include them.
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15 First Wrestler Set On Fire
If you had to think about it, it would make sense that the first wrestler to be set on fire was none other than the demon Kane. And if you had to take a guess as to when that happened, then an Inferno match in which the ring was engulfed in flames and the goal of the match was to set your opponent on fire would seem like the most likely place for it to happen.
Kane has been involved in four Inferno matches and it was during the first one, in 1998, that he was set on fire. Well, at least his arm was set on fire, by none other than his own half-brother, The Undertaker.
14 First Time A Wrestler Gave The Middle Finger
No, it wasn’t Steve Austin. When it comes to the WWE, most of us probably associate the middle finger with Stone Cold, but he wasn’t the first to flip the bird. That honor goes to The Mountie at SummerSlam 1991.
The match was a Jailhouse Match between The Mountie and The Big Bossman with the loser having to spend the night in prison. The Mountie lost the match and he was handcuffed and taken off in a police car to go through the process of being put in prison.
One step in that process is getting fingerprinted and when that time came, Mountie had this to say to the cops: “You want the finger? Here’s the finger!” he said as he gave the cops the good ol’ one-finger salute. Just a little attitude a few years before the Attitude Era!
13 First Steel Cage Match
There have been many steel cage matches in the history of wrestling. In fact, some of the most memorable matches have been steel cage matches. These days, a steel cage match might not be super original, but it is still pretty cool. However, imagine back in 1937 how fans must of reacted when they saw the first ever “steel cage” match.
It took place on June 25th, 1937 in Atlanta, Georgia between Count Rossi and Jake Bloomfield. Unlike the steel cages of today, this original cage was made out of chicken wire!
12 First Use Of Pyro
Pyrotechnics are a pretty big part of wrestling entertainment these days - WrestleMania is the biggest display of pyro, but throughout the year on Raw plenty of wrestlers use pyro for their entrances and it is almost as important to their entrance as their music (see #3 for the musical aspect).
In 1989 at Starcade, both Ric Flair and Lex Lugar had pyros during their entrances, but the first time it was used in a major way was at WrestleMania VI when The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship. After his victory, pyrotechnics went off inside the ring and a large sign in the shape of a W emitted sparks to mark the momentous occasion.
11 First Televised Blading
Kids who only know the current PG era of the WWE might not even know what blading is. These days, a bleeding wrestler isn’t very advertiser friendly. But that wasn’t always the case and sometimes the WWE would, in the past, add a little blood to a match in order to create more interest and “truth” to the violence.
These days I couldn’t imagine seeing forced blood occurring during a match at WrestleMania, but back in 1986, it was at WrestleMania II that occurred possibly the first ever televised blading during the match between Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy. Hogan was defending his title in a steel cage match (there’s the steel cage again) and after Hogan threw Bundy face first into the cage, Bundy quietly took a blade to his forehead and the blood started flowing.
10 The Rock Is First Actor Ever Paid $5.5 Million For First Starring Role
Sure, The Rock wasn’t the first wrestler to become a star outside of the WWE Universe and he wasn’t the first to go on to make movies either. But he isn’t just a movie star, he is one of the biggest movie stars in the world - and that is something no other wrestler has ever come close to doing.
And his crossover appeal was evident very early on when he was paid $5.5 million for his starring role in The Scorpion King back in 2002, which at the time was the highest salary ever paid to an actor for their first starring role in a movie. Not any wrestler-turned-actor. ANY ACTOR!
9 First Exposed Breasts
The start of the Attitude Era was raunchy and sexually charged, but as much as all the guys watching probably wanted to see naked breasts, it still hadn't reached a point where that was possible. Well, that is until 1998 in London, England after a mixed tag team match between Christian and Sable vs Marc Mero and Jacqueline.
Following Sable getting the win over Jackie, Jackie attacked the ref, Tim White and got herself lifted up onto White’s shoulders. During the ruckus, Sable grabbed Jackie’s top from behind and ripped it right off. The shirt ripped off pretty easily (maybe she was using Hulk Hogan’s tailor) and for some reason Jackie wasn’t wearing a bra, so her ladies were fully exposed.
8 First Black World Champion
Race has always been a part of wrestling and not always for the best, with many non-white wrestlers playing characters based on some, often less than flattering, stereotypes. But in 1992 during a high point of racial hostility in America, wrestling took a step in the right direction when they crowned the first ever Black world champion. But it wasn’t the WWE that broke that barrier, it was WCW.
On August 2nd, 1992 Ron Simmons won a raffle to determine who would get a shot at, then WCW world champion Big Van Vadar and in the match that followed Simmons went on to defeated Vadar and become the first ever black world champion.
7 First Wrestler Put Through Announce Table
When a wrestler rips out the mics and the monitors from the announce table, we all know what’s coming. It’s still a great spot, but it definitely isn’t a surprise anymore. But at the 1995 Survivor Series, it was.
During the title match between Bret Hart and Diesel, Diesel knocked Hart off the apron and he went falling back, and through, the announce table to the complete shock and awe of the crowd - who were genuinely surprised given that that wasn’t something they had ever seen before.
6 Charlotte Wins First Women’s Championship
The key words here are “Women’s Championship.” Lita’s unveiling of the new Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32 and announcement of the end of the word “Diva” might not be the biggest thing that most people remember from the event (Shane’s leap, the return of Stone Cold, Cactus Jack and Shawn Michaels), but it is probably the most significant event that took place that night.
Stepping away from the somewhat insulting “Diva” moniker and finally calling these incredible female athletes “women” not only acknowledges them as true athletes and entertainers, but also acknowledges their importance and growth within the WWE Universe.
No longer are the women’s matches the time to go get something to eat - and that was never more evident than that night at WrestleMania when Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch put on an incredible show in one of the best matches - male or female - that I had seen in awhile.
5 Raw Beats Nitro In The Ratings For First Time In 84 Weeks
The Monday Night Wars were some of the most interesting and contentious times in the history of wrestling. Some of the younger generation of WWE watchers might take it for granted that the WWE is the king of wrestling promotions, but in the mid-90s there was a long period of time when the WWE was in real trouble and the idea of them coming out on top as they did wasn’t a given.
For 84 weeks in a row, WCW Monday Nitro beat Monday Night Raw in the ratings and there were those who probably thought that it was the WCW that would end up as the sole survivor. But on April 13th, 1998 things finally started to change, as that was the day Raw beat Nitro in the ratings.
No one probably saw this one night as the end of the WCW, but looking back, from that point on, Nitro wouldn’t win consecutive weeks again until August and as of November 2nd of that year, Raw would win the ratings war every single week for the next 125 weeks until March 26th, 2001 when WCW went under.
4 Chris Jericho Becomes First Undisputed Champion
The end for WCW was obviously when Vince McMahon bought them out. But maybe the biggest symbolic moment for that end was when the two promotion’s championships became one at Vengeance 2001, when Chris Jericho emerged from the four man tournament as the Undisputed Champion - holding both the WCW and the WWE championship belts.
His victory, and the unification of the championships, would forever end the WCW championship belt as a goal for wrestlers to fight to attain and would really close the door on the WWE's biggest rival (even though the Big Gold Belt came back during the brand split).
3 The First Time A Wrestler Used Entrance Music
There are few things as important and exciting in wrestling as the wrestler's entrance music. With just a few notes, levels of excitement can be reached that can exceed almost anything else that happens in the actual match that follows.
Just watch a Royal Rumble event and you can feel the awesome tension and anticipation each time the clock counts down to zero and the unbelievable explosion of noise that erupts from the crowd as a Superstar's music hits, before the wrestler has even come out from behind the stage.
It seems unthinkable now to not have entrance music, but we can thank Hall of Famer Gorgeous George for that, as he was the first wrestler to use entrance music for his walk down to the ring. And as a fun fact, the music he used was Pomp and Circumstance - yup, the same music that would later be used by “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
2 The Undertaker's First WrestleMania Loss
The number one is a small number, but when it is the “1” in 21-1, it might just be the biggest number in the WWE Universe. The end of “the streak” was one of the most shocking moments in the history of the WWE and one that resonated beyond just wrestling fans. Non-wrestling fans were talking about it the next day and these were folks who had never talked about wrestling before.
And looking at the Vegas odds for the match, if you had bet a $100 on Lesnar to win, you could walked away with about $4,000!
1 First WrestleMania
On March 31st, 1985 at Madison Square Garden in New York hosted the first ever WrestleMania. Today, WrestleMania is the biggest event on the WWE calendar and pretty much only the Super Bowl gets the kind of attendance numbers that WM gets.
It might seem like a no-brainer today, but back in 1985, there was no guarantee that that first WrestleMania would succeed when Vince McMahon came up with the idea. It was a big risk at the time, but it was a risk that paid off and is one of the biggest reasons the WWE is what it is today.
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