Our minds are stacked with the highlights of our fandom, with our favorite memories replaying over in our heads. Fans of most sports will even remember the lowlights of a game because of the emotion that it invoked. But what about the memories that aren’t in the top or bottom tier, the ones that were really good, but not all time great? During WWE programming we are pelted with video packages showing us what we should remember, overlooking moments that don’t have the broadest appeal to the masses.
Let’s take something as simple as the WWE intro, you know the one that flashes pictures of WWE Superstars followed by the phrase “Then, Now, Forever”. The graphic shows all of the flag bearers of the WWE throughout the years, but leaves out most of the superstars who have helped to build the company. Superstars like Randy Savage, Mick Foley, and Batista are not shown, yet played huge parts in their respective eras.
That’s why today we are going to present 20 hidden gems from the WWE. We are defining hidden gems as a memory that once sparked, will put a smile on your face as you begin to remember it. For example maybe you remember when Shane McMahon jumped off the titantron, but not when he jumped from turnbuckle to turnbuckle.
This list isn’t limited to just moments during matches however, it will also include entire feuds, video packages, backstage segments, and some other great content. The truth of the matter is that for the 20 presented here today, there are more great moments that you will think should have made the cut. That’s why we encourage you to sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think should have been on the list.
20. Randy Orton RNN segments
On September 30th, 2002, WWE superstar and rookie Randy Orton injured his shoulder during a television taping. During his absence, WWE decided to let the future champion film a series of vignettes dubbed the “Randy News Network” or RNN for short. During these segments Orton would show up on screen and interrupt Raw with an injury update. The series of segments are what transitioned Orton into a heel, establishing his future alliance with super group Evolution.
19. Batista is Down
Despite all the memes, and internet parodies that Booker T sound bites have been used for, his greatest overlooked phrase was “BATISTA IS DOWN”. In the middle of his King Booker phase in WWE, the Reigning “King of the Ring” decided to do color commentary during an episode of Smackdown. After being slammed through the announce table by Finlay and Bobby Lashley, Batista was…well…down. Booker made sure to highlight this to the fans, screaming it over and over again. This may well have been what gave WWE the idea to let the former World Champion start doing commentaries after his return in 2011.
18. Rev. Devon Gimmick
Usually when Reveron Devon is mentioned, it’s as a footnote in the biography of Dave Batista. However as short the gimmick may have been in 2002, it is, and always has been criminally underrated. Devon’s entrance music was amazing, and it seemed that the crowd was behind him during his first singles run. During the duration of this gimmick, Devon scored singles victories over John Cena and Triple H, defeating both men with by pinfall. In the end fans were dying for a Dudley Boyz reunion, which became the character’s downfall.
17. Razor Ramon Vignettes
Everyone remembers Razor Ramon. They remember the gold chains, the toothpick, and the attitude. The Razor character was overshadowed by Scott Hall (Razor’s real name), when he jumped to WCW and formed the nWo. What overshadows all of his accomplishments, is his long time battle with drugs and alcohol.
Due to all that baggage mentioned above, most people forget about Hall’s WWE debut vignettes. They were different for the time period, shot in the streets of Miami featuring a character that wasn’t cartoony; but instead, cool. The self proclaimed “Bad Guy” also brought a confidence to the WWE, calling out all of the top stars during his vignettes…before his debut.
16. Undertaker – Off The Record
The Undertaker is very protective of the business of professional wrestling. He rarely does out of character interviews (also known as shoot interviews), and when he does he is extremely guarded. That’s why The Deadman’s 2002 interview on TSN’s Off the Record, should be seen by anyone who wants Mark Calaway’s (Taker’s real name) take on the business. He talks candidly about being a locker room general, the place of wrestling in the sports world, and what he may have done to Shawn Michaels if he ever refused to job to Austin at WrestleMania XIV.
15. DDP WWE Debut
Diamond Dallas Page debuted on Raw in 2001, in a horribly wasted storyline with The Undertaker. DDP has always been loved by the fans, which made his debut as a stalker of The Undertaker’s wife all the more baffling. The hidden gem in this story is the moment that DDP takes off his mask, and reveals that he was the stalker. It may be one of the loudest cheers from a WWE crowd ever. After seeing what a nice guy DDP actually is after all these years, it’s all the more boggling that he was given this gimmick.
14. Batista’s 2010 Heel Run
Batista really came into his own when he returned to the WWE in 2009 after an injury. In the second half of this run, Batista became a heel feuding with John Cena. The feud ended with a blow off match at WrestleMania XXVI, but the lead up to the match made it great. Batista was a great villain, traveling with security, and berating Cena on the mic. It seemed as if Batista was a mouthpiece for older fans, and also seemed to be a legitimate threat to Cena’s legacy.
13. Greatest Ending to SmackDown
Unfortunately SmackDown has widely been considered the “B” show for the WWE in recent years, compared to Raw’s “A” show status. There was a time however, that SmackDown was just as, if not more entertaining than Raw.
One of the reasons that WCW failed in the late 90s, is because their secondary show Thunder only featured matches with wrestlers who were not household names. Conversely SmackDown, which was airing the same time as Thunder, featured all of their main eventers.
Utilizing all of their stars on an episode of SmackDown before the 2001 Survivor Series, led to one of the greatest endings to a wrestling show ever. One by one Superstars of the Attitude Era came out to the ring and delivered their finishers to each other. This moment occurred during the underwhelming invasion angle, which could be why it has faded into obscurity.
12. MVP vs. Matt Hardy
In 2007 the United States Champion MVP, was on a crusade to prove that he was better than Matt Hardy… at everything. The angle lasted for a few months on SmackDown, and competitions between the two included playing basketball, arm wrestling, beer drinking, football throwing, pizza eating, and boxing (sort of). Despite being in the middle of a heated rivalry, MVP and Hardy were forced into a Tag Team Championship match, which they won. Even though the two were now teammates, the competitions continued for several more weeks.
11. The Miz WrestleMania XXVII Package
People hate the Miz, but isn’t that the point? Going into WrestleMania XXVII, The Miz was the WWE champion, playing the villain to John Cena’s hero. Unfortunately for Miz, his main event moment served as a commercial for the two year feud between Cena, and a returning Dwayne Johnson. Before Miz’s main event moment was hijacked by The Rock, the former Real World star received his own pre-match video package. It detailed his rise from reality star, to rookie, to eventually becoming the WWE Champion. The visuals were set to a great song, and represented the feelings of contempt that the WWE universe had for The Miz.
10. Backstage Goldust/Booker T Segments
Booker T and Goldust are one of the most underrated, and underappreciated tag teams in WWE history. They held the Tag Team Titles, but the real memorable part of their partnership was the on screen chemistry between the two. Although he was often the reason things got weird, Goldust played the straight man in most of their segments, with the comedic moments coming from Booker’s reaction to his eccentric partner. Even the duo’s breakup is unique and underrated, being one of the only tag teams to end on truly good terms on screen.
9. CM Punk’s 2010 Royal Rumble
Although the lineup wasn’t great during the Royal Rumble match in 2010, it has one great moment (more like 10 great minutes). CM Punk was the leader of the Straight Edge Society, and his mission was giving sermons to fans and wrestlers alike. In some of his best work ever, Punk took to the match by clearing the ring, then preaching on the mic until the next opponent came in. He did this three more times, and in the process gave Beth Phoneix a GTS, which was also an awesome heel move.
8. Hardcore 24/7
In the year 2000, the Hardcore Championship was up for grabs, anytime, anywhere. Crash Holly declared the rule after winning the title, which put the champion on constant alert. The 24/7 rule did two things. First it opened up screen time for superstars who wouldn’t normally be featured on television. Secondly, it was a wildly entertaining way to pass time in between matches or talking segments on WWE programming. Most new viewers aren’t even aware of the Hardcore Championship, which is why they should go back and watch these matches; don’t worry, they’re quick.
7. Undertaker vs. HBK Video Package
Unanimously fans will say that Undertaker vs HBK at WrestleMania XXV is a better match than the one they had the following year. Even though the second match is considered the weaker of the two, the video package that preceded the rematch was epic. It is one of the most overlooked part of the two year feud, which had many great moments.
The promo detailed the descent of Shawn Michaels into an obsessed madness over losing at WrestleMania XXV. It showed him slowly losing himself in the obsession, to the point of alienating friends and fans in pursuit of his rematch. It is best viewed after watching the first match between the two future Hall of Famers.
6. Lance Storm Starts the Invasion
The Invasion storyline is completely forgettable, except for a key few moments. One of these moments is the kick off (no pun intended) to the entire Invasion angle, featuring former WCW star Lance Storm. Storm interferes during a match between Perry Saturn and Steve Blackman, and proceeds to lay Saturn out with a superkick. Storm exudes more charisma in this moment than the rest of his WWE career combined; and also ushered in a new era to professional wrestling.
5. Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin Video Package
The most memorable part of this feud was the infamous “milk bath” that Kurt Angle delivered to Stone Cold and The Alliance. The bad blood between the two superstars boiled over at Unforgiven in 2001, with Austin dropping the title to Angle. Before the match however, the video package is what really stole the show.
It was great because it showed that Austin could make fun of himself, being sprayed down with milk, and even pretending to cry while blindfolded. It quickly ramped up though, and matched the intensity that the two competitors would have show in the match that followed.
4. John Cena vs. JBL – I Quit Match
John Cena’s first title win is largely forgettable, as Cena’s match with JBL at WrestleMania 21 was cut short (only about eight minutes) in a very cookie cutter title match. At the following SmackDown pay per view though, Cena truly rose to the occasion, in a bloody I quit Match (boy, isn’t that what an I Quit match is supposed to look like?). Cena established himself as a true badass and destroyed SmackDown’s top heel of that year in JBL.
The ending’s great too, as Cena is threatening to hit JBL with an exhaust pipe, convincing JBL to quit. After a bloody Cena’s hand was raised in victory, he decided to bash him with it anyway, through some glass. A Cena this edgy will probably never be promoted again by WWE, but it is a true hidden gem and will remind older fans just how great Cena’s character was with the PG limitations removed.
3. Owen Hart – Shoot Promo after Survivor Series ’97
Following the 1997 Survivor Series screwjob, Bret Hart went to WCW along with Jim Neidhart and British Bulldog, who were able to get out of their contracts to join Bret. Owen however, was handcuffed contractually to stay with Vince McMahon and the WWE. This led to an incredible promo by Owen that blurred the lines of kayfabe and reality in which he berated Vince for what he did to his brother. The Black Hart gimmick was born. It’s a shame that the WWE didn’t take the chance to capitalize on it as Owen might have been able to carry that momentum into a solid main event feud with HBK and Mr. McMahon, perhaps flirting with a possible WWE title win.
2. HBK Imitates Hogan
Okay, so there is a ton of awesomeness overlooked in this HBK entry. Back in 2005, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels were in the middle of a summer feud, which was supposed to carry over past SummerSlam into Unforgiven. The original plan had Hogan winning at the first Pay Per View, but Michaels taking the second one. After the feud had been built, and the SummerSlam match had been set, Hogan informed Michaels that he wouldn’t be participating in a return match due to an injury.
Michaels delivered a masterfully executed parody of Hulk Hogan following the news that he would be losing their one and only match. The parody is a scathing outburst of Michaels’ feelings towards Hogan’s backstage antics, along with his commitment to the fans. Along with the spot on impression, the HBK video package in the middle of the segment was enough to send chills down your spine…“Brother”.
1. The Undertaker vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship
Triple threat matches can be tricky to execute effectively, always leaving one person off to the side while the other two competitors engage each other. The hardest thing to get right in a triple threat match is the rhythm, pace, and credibility of the action. The maneuver that incapacitates one competitor, has to be strong enough for fans to believe that they will be down for a while.
Recently we saw a great triple threat match at the 2015 Royal Rumble between Cena, Lesnar, and Rollins that many are calling the greatest of all time. And though their match was great, it pales in comparison to the battle between The Rock, The Undertaker, and Kurt Angle at Vengeance in 2002. This match is overlooked for some reason, but was easily good enough to have headlined WrestleMania. It featured each man using another’s finisher, and ended with a new Undisputed Champion.
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