First impressions are one of the most important things about any presentation. Whether applying for a job, meeting your partner's family, or any number of other scenarios, nobody wants to make a bad first impression.
Storytelling is much the same. Ask any writer, and they will tell you that their most important scene or chapter is the opening one. The aim, of course, is to immerse the audience immediately so that they are a part of the created world and care more about what happens within it.
While it may not seem instantly apparent, the presentation of sports - in this case wrestling - operates on the same principle. A big event should be made to feel like a can't miss happening, or a themed event should display as much, and an integral part of this is the set.
Often this is the stage but it can also incorporate the ramp and other parts of the ring area. Here we shall take a look at those instances where wrestling companies really got it right with the sets for their events.
25 25. Raw Is War
Chances are that when any current, or lapsed, fan thinks of the Attitude Era the image they picture has this stage as its landscape. A classic arena in its simplicity, the big feature was a screen so commanding that it warranted the invention of the word 'TitanTron'. This was flanked on either side by two rectangular screens, and the company's logo in the centre behind the wrestler's walk-out position.
24 24. WrestleMania XXIV
In recent times WWE have taken WrestleMania to open top stadiums rather than the typical arenas, and the one to start the modern run was a sight to behold. The Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida was only the second ever outdoor WrestleMania and the first ever to be broadcast in high definition.
23 23. Survivor Series 2004
22 22. Survivor Series 2002
Two years prior, WWE created another truly unique set for Survivor Series - this one due to the logistical restrictions of (the original) Madison Square Garden. With a short walk to the ring and a very limited amount of space for a stage, the company had to innovate. This led to a literal split screen - a screen that would open to allow the wrestlers to enter through them.
21 21. Capitol Punishment
This one-off event may not have set the world alight but its stage couldn't have been more perfect. After dropping the WCW adopted Great American Bash event two years prior, WWE decided that they missed have a patriotic pay-per-view event and took advantage of being in the capital of the country and created Capitol Punishment. The stage perfectly reflected this, recreating the White House out of screens and LED boards.
20 20. In Your House
19 19. Monday Night Raw - The Parallelogram
While Raw is War's stage may be synonymous with the Attitude Era, there is one stage that fans instantly think of when talking about Monday Night Raw - the parallelogram. Introduced the first week into the brand extension, the stage would be used continuously for a decade.
18 18. SmackDown - The Original
17 17. WrestleMania XXX
The 30th WrestleMania was a big milestone and a grandiose stage was needed to fit the occasion - something that was delivered in full. The stage was filled with a huge version of the logo, with the screens being placed within the XXX numerals.
16 16. Backlash 2000
15 15. Vengeance 2005
Under Eric Bischoff, Raw made the most of Las Vegas when they passed through. None more so than the Vengeance pay-per-view in 2005, which themed its entire set around the glamour of the home of casinos. The screens took the shapes of the famous 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign and a betting chip, as well as some playing cards displaying the wrestlers involved in each match. There were also two giant dice that the wrestlers walked out between.
14 14. WrestleMania IX
13 13. Royal Rumble 2006
Thirteen years later, WWE took on the Roman gladiator theme one more time and benefited from the advances in budget and technology. The entire entranceway was built to be like a Roman coliseum, complete with two slaves to open the doors to allow the wrestlers to walk out.
12 12. WrestleMania X-Seven
Sometimes simple is better. The set for this event is little more than a standard TitanTron, with a screen above and below. The event name ran down the sides of this. There is very little more to the stage but despite seeming simple on paper, the execution is classy and a fan favorite.
11 11. Bash At The Beach 1996
WCW had been experimenting with beach themed stages since 1992's event but their efforts were perfected on their fourth attempt - Bash at the Beach 1996. Creating a full boardwalk as the walkway surrounded by sand, palm trees, giant parrots and beach balls, the stage truly captured the summer feel in a way WWE has never achieved, despite a specific attempt at 2007's SummerSlam.
10 10. WrestleMania XX
'Where it all begins again' was the tagline for what was expected to be a changing of the guard for WWE with its milestone WrestleMania. While this transition to Shane McMahon never came to fruition - much to the chagrin of many fans, especially with current hindsight - this was one of the greatest events in company's history and created a stage worthy of the occasion. Not only was there a huge screen running the length of the stage displaying the New York skyline, the entire stage itself was a second screen for wrestlers to walk out atop of.
9 9. King Of The Ring 2001
8 8. Royal Rumble 2000
The original Madison Square Garden was the classic WWE arena but the set-up of it made stage design very limited and tricky due to the small entrance area with barely any walkway. However, the WWE team excelled at the 2000 Royal Rumble with their set themed around the WWE Championship Street Fight. By simply placing a yellow taxi cab above the entrance, a classic backdrop was created for the event.
7 7. WrestleMania XIX
The 19th WrestleMania is often overlooked despite a great card and a truly iconic piece of set design. Emanating from Safeco Field in Seattle, the roofed, yet open building provided a unique lighting quality and the sheer size of the place provided by far the longest walk to the ring ever. So much so that the ramp actually curved round. Furthermore, a huge lit spike reading WrestleMania filled the backdrop of many shots.
6 6. Survivor Series 1998
The 1998 edition of WWE's Thanksgiving pay-per-view, Survivor Series, was focused around the Deadly Game Tournament to crown a new WWE Champion. The tournament even had its own logo - a skull emblazoned with a tattoo across its forehead with Deadly Game around it. This would be recreated as the stage, for wrestlers to walk out in front of. Again, simple but classic.
5 5. The SmackDown Fist
As mentioned earlier in this list, the original SmackDown stage is beloved by fans however it was eclipsed by its successor. SmackDown's fist and shattered glass (styled) stage is one of the most popular in the history of wrestling and it easy to see why. As well as being instantly recognizable and with its own character, the stage screamed action.
4 4. WrestleMania XXIX
When WWE announced that the home of WrestleMania XXIX would be the MetLife Stadium, the company were delighted to be returning to New York (despite the fact the event was in New Jersey) and made it the focus point of all advertising. This continued into the truly phenomenal recreation of the city's landmarks in their set. With a Statue of Liberty sat atop the canopy over the ring and most impressively, the Brooklyn Bridge across the stage with the Empire State Building in the skyline behind, the set was a truly grandiose spectacle.
3 3. WrestleMania 21
When WrestleMania came to the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2005, WWE decided to embrace the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. With mock trailers starring roster members re-enacting famous movie scenes used as the promotion leading to the event, which itself had been dubbed 'WrestleMania Goes Hollywood', there was little surprise at the Hollywood themed stage. A recreation of the Hollywood Hills sign appeared next to a screen that was made to look like the front of a movie theatre, and a ramp comprised of a Hollywood star and red carpet, WWE truly captured the essence of Hollywood.
2 2. WrestleMania XXVII
Not necessarily the first stage that comes to mind when fans think of classic WrestleMania stages - typically the themed ones are thought of first - but 2011's effort was a perfect stage to display the grandness of WrestleMania itself. Not of a theme, but of the importance of 'the Showcase of the Immortals'. With a larger audience expected, thanks to the shocking return of The Rock to the wrestling world, albeit only as host, WWE needed to emphasize how big Mania was and this stage showed the class and scale of the event.
1 1. Halloween Havoc
WCW getting the top spot may surprise some of you, as the company were known for their underwhelming stage design, but when they got it right, they truly nailed it. Halloween Havoc is an event fans often cite as one of their most wanted to return, and this set is a large part of the adjuration. The giant pumpkin with the logo carved in, the large demon behind it, and the graveyard setting all set a perfect mood to remind viewers of the spooky Halloween theme and set the event out from the crowd.
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