The World Wrestling Entertainment, WrestleMania and Hulk Hogan. They are, for casual fans who do not follow the industry on a weekly basis, the three biggest names in the history of professional wrestling. It is thus no surprise that one will see those three mentioned throughout a piece detailing some of the most iconic pictures in wrestling history. Hogan, granted, is not necessarily the most welcome person in the WWE these days because of certain comments that he made in the past, but those regrettable words cannot take away from all that Hogan contributed to the industry during the 1980s and 1990s.
And what of WrestleMania? For starters, the event is not referred to as “The Showcase of the Immortals” just as a WWE gimmick to push the importance of the event. WrestleMania forever changed the landscape of the pro wrestling industry and a knowledgeable fan could easily make the argument that the WWE would not exist as it does today without the first ever WrestleMania being the success that it was three decades ago. It is only fitting, then, that WrestleMania is mentioned all over a piece that showcases the most iconic pictures in wrestling history.
Hogan. WrestleMania. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock. Mick Foley. The Undertaker. CM Punk. All, in their own way, have played a part in creating memorable moments that will live on in generations, in part because somebody was in the right place at the right time to snap the picture that captured that perfect second. Even now, in an age where social media, DVR and video websites make it easy to rewind and pause to our preferred instant, there is something special about a picture that, to steal the cliché, says a thousand words. Those words tell some of the best stories in the history of pro wrestling.
20. Goldberg Breathes Fire
WCW got so much wrong, to the point that the company was out of business only a few years after it was the top organization in the wrestling world. However, the initial push of Goldberg was something that the company nailed. Goldberg became a star and household name during his undefeated run that saw him eventually win the World Heavyweight Championship from Hulk Hogan during an edition of Nitro. There are several photos of Goldberg walking through the pyrotechnics while wearing the “big gold belt” to choose from, and any could be considered iconic.
19. Ladder of Success
The WWE had featured ladder matches before Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon entered the ring at WrestleMania X. None before it, however, has the legacy held by this encounter. Michaels, still in the infancy of his “Heartbreak Kid” character, stole the show on this night, particularly during a moment when he sailed off of the ladder to splash onto a prone Ramon. One would not have to look far while using the Web browser of his choice to find multiple angles of this shot, and videos of the splash and of the entire match can also be watched for free via multiple websites.
18. Kiss Goodbye
Sometimes, a picture becomes even more iconic because of events that transpire after that one moment in time is captured. That has become the case with the picture of CM Punk kissing goodbye to Vince McMahon and the WWE. While the company wasted its own version of the “Summer of Punk” angle, Punk would, only a few years later, literally say goodbye to the WWE, seemingly for good. Punk has since left the company and the wrestling industry to pursue a career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the “Straightedge Superstar” has made it clear in interviews that he has no intentions of ever returning.
17. Four Horsemen
“Diamonds are forever, and so are the Four Horsemen” was but one of the many sayings attributed with the greatest group in the history of professional wrestling. Manager J.J. Dillon. Ole Anderson. Terry Blanchard. “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. They were what they said they were: The symbol of excellence and the best thing going in the industry when they were the top faction in all of wrestling. Wrestling companies around the world have tried to recreate the magic of the original Four Horsemen idea. None have been able to do so, and none ever will.
16. Montreal Screwjob
There will likely never again be a finish to a match that equals the shock and controversy created by the conclusion of the 1997 Survivor Series. Bret “Hitman” Hart, on his way to WCW soon after this night, had just been put into his own “Sharpshooter” finishing hold by his real-life rival, Shawn Michaels. The look on the face of Hart after the bell was rung shows that he was just beginning to comprehend what had happened. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon had ordered that the match be stopped so that Michaels would win the championship and a stunned Hart would, not long after this picture was snapped, lash out at McMahon and at WWE property.
15. Ric Flair: One Final Walk
The truth of the matter is that you could pick from a handful of pictures that were taken before, during and after the WrestleMania encounter between “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Sure, Flair would go on to wrestle several other matches and work in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, but this long walk down the ramp and the aisle was his last as an active wrestler at a WrestleMania. It may not have been the best match that either man had during their legendary careers, but it was an iconic clash that served as a farewell to one of the greatest wrestlers in history.
14. New World Order
It was a notion that was nothing short of unthinkable for younger wrestling fans who did not subscribe to publications such as the Wrestling Observer newsletter. Hulk Hogan, the ultimate good guy who taught us to say our prayers and to take our vitamins, aligned himself with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the New World Order faction that would take WCW over in storyline and ultimately in real life. Along with the real shock that it created among even casual wrestling fans, this moment set into motion the events that would make WCW the top wrestling promotion in the world for a time.
13. Superstar in New York
Well before John Cena, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan, there was “Superstar” Billy Graham, a wrestling performer unlike any before him and an early icon for a company that would become the worldwide phenomenon known as the WWE. The company and New York City have been linked together for decades, and the two made for one of the most iconic pictures in wrestling history when Graham climbed on top of a mailbox. With Times Square serving as the perfect backdrop, Graham was on top of the planet while in the world’s most famous city.
12. Macho Man and Elizabeth Celebrate
One could have chosen from several moments featuring “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Perhaps their famous reunion, one that occurred at a different WrestleMania event, first comes to mind. This picture was snapped on the night that Savage became the top man in the company after he won a tournament and was crowned the new WWE Champion. The photo shows just how much the night meant to both personalities who would remain intertwined up through the end of the 1980s and 1990s. Both have sadly passed away, leaving an emptiness in the wrestling industry that will never be filled.
11. Boyhood Dream
Shawn Michaels was not always the most beloved man in the WWE or in the wrestling industry, but he was, when at his best, a terrific performer who more than earned his “Mr. WrestleMania” nickname. Michaels reached the mountaintop for the first time at WrestleMania XII when he defeated Bret “Hitman” Hart in an Ironman Match to win the WWE Championship. So much more was to come from Michaels; D-Generation-X, a retirement because of a serious back injury, and a return and second run that was even better than his first in the WWE. This, however, was the moment when his “Boyhood Dream Came True.”
10. Streak Over
Fans in attendance and those watching at home were left stunned – literally – by what they had just seen. The Undertaker, after 21 straight victories at WrestleMania, had just been pinned clean as a sheet in the center of the ring by Brock Lesnar. As if to prove to viewers that it was real and that there was to be no reprieve, the “21-1” record was placed on video screens around the stadium as The Undertaker collected himself inside of the ring. All good things must, so goes the saying, come to an end and that is even true in the fictitious world created by wrestling organizations.
9. Hogan and Andre: Irresistible Force Vs. Immovable Object
The first picture featuring Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant standing inside of the same ring at WrestleMania III can be summed up in the words of then-commentator Gorilla Monsoon: The Irresistible Force was facing off with the Immovable Object. Two icons of the wrestling business, one about to fade away into the sunset and one about to take his rightful place as a worldwide superstar, were on the verge of creating a historic moment when cameras caught and snapped a picture that has been shown time and time again on WWE shows. Just the phrase “Hogan versus Andre” may bring visions of this photo to your mind.
8. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit
After years of being cast as midcard fodder that could be replaced in an instant, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were main event performers and champions standing inside of the ring celebrating their accomplishments at the close of WrestleMania XX. Little could anybody have guessed at the time that Guerrero would be dead roughly a year and a half later at the age of 38, as years of substance abuse and other life choices were just too much for his body to withstand. What should be a picture that is remembered with fondness is instead one that will never again be seen on WWE programming because of the unspeakable and disgusting acts committed by Benoit.
7. Hogan and The Rock: Icon Meets Icon
It is rare and even special when high expectations are met by a moment, and that was case at WrestleMania X8 when Hulk Hogan and The Rock stared eye-to-eye inside of the ring. The two legends of the wrestling industry paused multiple times just so that they could take in the atmosphere and appreciate what it was that they were creating for the audience. Both Hogan and The Rock achieved great successes inside of the ring and in other forms of entertainment, and The Rock is now a legitimate Hollywood megastar who is featured in summer blockbusters. For one night, though, the two worked together to produce an iconic WrestleMania match.
6. Mankind: The Face of Pain
It has been almost two decades since Mick Foley, playing the “Mankind” character, and The Undertaker entered the cage for their Hell in a Cell battle, and it remains one of the most memorable and most difficult-to-watch matches to have ever occurred under the WWE umbrella. Mankind, of the two, took the bulk of the punishment, as he was thrown off and later through the top of the cage. Cameras caught Mankind seemingly smiling in the corner at one point of the contest, a photo and moment that is often replayed on WWE programming. As iconic as the picture is, it would be best if nobody ever reenacted the real punishment that Foley suffered on that fateful evening.
5. The Pontiac Silverdome at WrestleMania III
So how many people were actually inside of the Pontiac Silverdome for the third edition of WrestleMania? We now know, long after the fact, that the number was probably well below the reported 93,000. When the legend becomes fact, though, it is, if nothing else, far more fun to print the legend. Regardless of the actual number, the picture offers proof that the Silverdome was undeniably packed for WrestleMania III and those in attendance witnessed what would go down as the one iconic moment in WWE history. Pictures of that moment will be featured later in this piece.
4. WrestleMania I
No disrespect meant to the man who went by the nickname “Mr. Wonderful” during his career, but WrestleMania I was mostly built on the shoulders of three men: Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Mr. T. This one picture perfectly captures what the event was about, with Hogan in the background as Mr. T. and Piper battled it out inside of the ring. WrestleMania I served as the launch of the WWE into the mainstream and beyond the wrestling industry, and it would become the foundation of what is, today, a multimedia and entertainment conglomerate that is recognized all around the world.
3. Shane McMahon at Nitro
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon standing inside of a WWE ring, staring up at the screen and seeing son Shane McMahon standing inside of a WCW ring. The picture of the two is, on its own, a great shot, but it also exists as a representation of the end of an era. Pro wrestling has never been the same since WCW died for good in March of 2001, and most insiders and industry journalists would likely say that wrestling has never recovered from WCW closing its doors. The WWE has not since had any real competition in the form of a legitimate No. 2 organization and it is difficult to imagine that one will emerge anytime soon.
2. “Stone Cold” Becomes a Babyface
The submission match involving “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret “Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania 13 is seen, by some, as the greatest match in WrestleMania history. It was more than that, though, as it signaled a shift in the pro wrestling scene. Austin and Hart pulled off the “double turn” on that night, with the bloody Austin refusing to give up to Hart’s “Sharpshooter” finisher. That Austin passed out rather than gave up completed a turn that had, up to that night, been coming for some time, and Austin ultimately became the biggest draw in the history of North American pro wrestling and a man partly responsible for the WWE defeating WCW in the “Monday Night Wars.”
1. Hogan Slams Andre
It has, over time, become so much of a myth, in part because of the stories told and retold about the moment by Hulk Hogan himself, that it is somewhat of an under-appreciated pro wrestling memory. When Hogan slammed Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, he propelled himself from a great babyface performer to an icon of an industry who was bigger than the WWE and wrestling itself. For those who grew up watching the WWE during that era, Hogan slamming Andre is the first wrestling memory that we have and that it was captured in pictures from multiple angles is a blessing.
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