Screw Dana White. For a “fake” sport, a whole ton of emotion comes through a 20 by 20 ring and into our television sets. Remember, for the most part, we all know this is a show; which means the Superstars and Divas have to create charismatic characters, matches, and move sets to draw us all in, put an ass every eighteen inches and keep the home fans from switching the channel.
A wrestler’s job isn’t necessarily to be able to be a great wrestler, although that certainly helps more than if you’re a cruddy worker. No, a wrestler’s job first and foremost is get every single fan watching them to believe in what they do and what they say, and if you can do that, you’ve created a fan for life. Someone who still to this day, even though they know it’s all a work, will have #itsrealtome ring true.
It’s why even though he might never make it to the main roster, Tough Enough’s ZZ is winning the WWE Universe over every single week, as he makes the fans relate to him and feel something. Evoking emotions and creating moments is what makes a wrestler great. Sure, watching an incredible worker is what makes many fans dreams come true, but for us, we’re already hooked and we’re not going anywhere. For fans that are generally on the cusp of switching the channel or when trying to win new fans over, it is essential to create moments like the ones below.
24 Sami Zayn Answers the Call
When peppy, feel–good music rings throughout arenas, you know a big babyface is coming to the ring. The best babyfaces know how to do the little things to get the crowd not just behind them, but to believe in them too. Sami Zayn is the newest in a long line of babyfaces in the vein of Ricky Morton or Ricky Steamboat, where a lot of the fun of watching these stars is the journey they can take you on. In his hometown, the NXT star surprised everyone on Raw when he answered John Cena’s U.S. Title Open Challenge. No, he didn’t win the matchm but the crowd went ballistic in one of the most memorable, touching, and star making journeys of the modern era.
23 Bret and Davey Boy Embrace at Wembley
In the late eighties, one of the best tag team feuds was between The Hart Foundation and The British Bulldogs. Behind the scenes, however, Davey Boy had married Bret's sister Diana and Dynamite had married Bret's wife's cousin, so it was always a big family affair. However, there was no bigger moment for them than August 31st, 1992 when Bret would defend his Intercontinental championship against Davey Boy in his hometown at Wembley Stadium. The war of words leading up to the match led to a heated family feud that saw Davey Boy defeat his brother–in–law for the gold. However, the real victory was for Diana who got to see the two embrace to close out SummerSlam 1992.
22 WCCW Pays Tribute to David Von Erich
On one fateful night, David, the oldest of the Von Erich brothers went to Japan, where the family was also huge, and tragically died due to a heart attack or a drug overdose (depending on who’s story you believe). Set to become the NWA champion, David’s death rocked the wrestling world and a tribute was paid to him by legends like Harley Race and Ric Flair. However, in 1984, Texas Stadium was filled to its capacity for the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions. WCCW had all hands on deck, including the patriarch, Fritz, coming out of retirement. In David’s place, it was Kerry who would head into battle with Ric Flair and win the NWA title for his brother as the Texas faithful went ballistic.
21 The Horsemen Reunite
All throughout the eighties and early nineties, The Four Horsemen were the symbol of excellence in wrestling. Four men acting and thinking collectively was the game The Horsemen played. Then the nWo came and Eric Bischoff felt the need for The Horsemen was shrinking, but not the demand. A very real feud between the WCW President and the leader of The Horsemen, Ric Flair, would spill out into the WCW. In the weeks building up to The Nature Boy’s return, Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit would try to convince Arn Anderson to reform The Horsemen. He finally acquiesced and in Horseman Country, Mongo, Benoit, Anderson, and Malenko welcomed back the Nature Boy and began to raise hell once again.
20 Randy Savage Proposes
After getting sent into retirement by The Ultimate Warrior, the bigger story was that Randy Savage had found his good heart again and reunited with The First Lady of Wrestling, Miss Elizabeth. Their relationship needed to take the next logical step with Macho Man mustering up the courage to put himself out there for the world to see and propose to his radiant former manager. On the Saturday morning edition of Superstars, the former Macho King would head to the ring and stammer his words while trying to profess his love and ask for her hand in marriage. Roddy Piper's line, "I gotta help him," before screaming "get down on your knees!" was classic.
19 Ric Flair's Retirement Ceremony
36 years, 16 world titles, and a whole lot limousine riding and jet flying. It had to end sometime and it finally happened at WrestleMania XXIV. The night after on Raw, Ric Flair would soak in the adulation of fans in the seats and his fellow colleagues, who were thanking the greatest ever for his efforts in the ring. Flair asked the fans to rejoice in his career and not be sad that he was gone. For a career like his, it was only fitting that wrestlers from every generation came out to pay their respects to a true legend of the sport.
18 Rey Wins For Eddie
One of the worst tragedies in wrestling history happened on November 13th, 2005 when Eddie Guerrero passed away. However, the show must go on and the WWE turned his passing into a storyline to get the sympathy needed for Rey Mysterio to be pushed through the moon on his road to becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. The most touching part of the journey began at Royal Rumble 2006, when Rey drove out in a lowrider (ala Eddie) at #2 and ran through the entire roster on his way to earning the title shot at WrestleMania. Eddie was gone, but through friends like Rey Mysterio, his legacy was able to live on.
17 "The Tribe of Extreme Has Risen Again!"
ECW closed its doors in early 2001, a victim of "being too small to be big and too big to be small," as Paul Heyman would say. However, the number three promotion in the country was still selling like gangbusters, which is why it was heartbreaking to say goodbye. Even ECW champion, Rhyno, didn't want to believe it was over. Then came One Night Stand in 2005, which was a fitting end to the promotion. Then, in 2006, RVD won Money in the Bank and wanted another One Night Stand, so Vince decided to just resurrect the whole damn promotion. When Paul Heyman was given a conquering hero’s welcome at the Hammerstein Ballroom, he delivered one his best rabble–rousing speeches ever, declaring the official return of ECW.
16 Triple H Returns at MSG
From 1999–2001, Triple H was white hot and it showed when he was the first ever heel to walk in and out of WrestleMania as champion. Then he showed his true toughness when he tore his quad, but still finished the match, even being put in the Walls of Jericho. The hard road back ended at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Triple H has said that he had to remind himself that he’s the asskicker and that he can’t break down like he did when the fans showered him with love. This was a moment that Jim Ross called the longest sustained roar he had ever heard.
16. Hulkamania Returns Proper
The nWo had invaded the WWE and the stage was set for an epic showdown between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Something strange happened during the match, as an euphoric outpouring of nostalgia would grip the Toronto crowd and Hollywood Hogan would be cheered as if he was still wearing red and yellow. However, it was the next night on Raw that the true Hulkamania reunion tour began, as he came out on Raw still clad in nWo colors. The Toronto faithful declared they weren’t worthy and bowed to Hulk Hogan, giving him a standing ovation. Hulk Hogan might have returned to the WWE several months prior, but on March 18th, 2002, Hulkamania returned to the world.
15 Eddie and Dean's Farewell ECW Match
ECW was not just a blood and guts promotion. It was the best wrestling promotion for wrestling in the mid–nineties and two of the best in the world were second generation stars, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. They might be household names now, but then, they were just two hungry wrestlers who worked their butts off to be the best and they were in ECW showing what they were made before Bischoff would sign them to WCW. On August 26th, 1995 the two men who brought pure wrestling to the land of extreme would have a two–out–of–three falls match at the ECW Arena. The locker room would embrace them at the end of the match as the fans chanted“ECW!.”
14 Good Ol' JR Gets a Good Ol' Standing O
Jim Ross considers Gordon Solie to be the best broadcaster in wrestling history, but most fans know better because as great as Solie was, Good Ol' JR is the voice of a generation. For wrestling fans, he is our Cronkite or Murrow. Jim Ross spent almost thirty years between NWA, WCW, and WWE, coming into our homes and giving us some of the most passionate calls ever. So naturally, when it came time for JR to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, the standing ovation he received from fans was the kind of standing O reserved for returning superstars and it was well deserved.
13 Piper's Passionate Speech on Jericho
Heading into WrestleMania XXV, Chris Jericho would verbally assault Mickey Rourke and many other “has–been, washed up legends.” like Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka, and Roddy Piper, who Jericho would battle at the event. However, before that, Piper would verbally spar with the Honest Man Chris Jericho in one of Hot Rod’s last great promos. Piper spoke about the thrill of performing, running through the gamut of his career highlights and how they should be celebrated. He then said that he will continue to perform as long as the fans allow him to create one more memorable moment. With Roddy gone now, this promo becomes all the more compelling and heart–wrenching.
12 "I'm Sorry, I Love You"
For over thirty years, Ric Flair was quite simply the man. Quite simply, no one could touch Ric Flair's legacy. No one except Mr. WrestleMania himself, Shawn Michaels. With his best years behind him, Ric Flair walked that aisle one more time into battle at WrestleMania XXIV in a match where for twenty minutes, HBK was able to make Ric Flair look like the Nature Boy of old one more time, until delivering a career ending Superkick to end one of the greatest careers wrestling has ever seen.
11 Mankind Wins the World Title
"Mankind did it! Mick Foley did it!" With those six words, Michael Cole of all people made Mankind's unlikely championship victory mean so much more than it already meant. He was widely regarded and respected as one of the best brawlers ever, but no one, probably not even Mick Foley himself, expected him to ever become world champion. However, watching an excited Foley race around the ring and grab the mic to tell his kids "big daddy-o did it!" is a shining example of wrestling hitting fans right in the heart.
10 Bret and Shawn Bury the Hatchet
The Montreal Screwjob will be dissected by fans forever. It's wrestling's equivalent to the Kennedy Assassinations. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had spent over ten years being angry at one another. As HBK returned to the WWE, he would befriend The Hart Dynasty and, with Tyson Kidd as the conduit behind the scenes, Bret would be convinced that HBK was genuine in his attempts to apologize and let the past go. On January 4th, 2010 the two did just that, by embracing and ending wrestling's biggest personal and professional rivalry.
9 The Ultimate Warrior's Final Promo
It was eighteen long years since The Ultimate Warrior had been inside a WWE ring. By delivering a rousing speech at the Hall of Fame, The Warrior returned to reclaim his legacy and on the Raw after WrestleMania XXX, he sought to begin to once again cement it. He vowed to run into the hearts and mind of fans forever...and then he was gone. A swan song in every sense of the word, The Ultimate Warrior made peace with his past and did lay down the brickwork for his future, in the form of the Warrior Award.
8 Double A Retires
What most people remember about Arn Anderson's retirement is the parody the nWo did a few weeks later. However, if that's all you remember, then go back and watch The Enforcer's actual speech. With the Horsemen demanding an answer from prospect Curt Hennig, Double A would return to the heart of Horsemen Country, Columbia, SC to deliver a rousing speech to convince the former Mr. Perfect to become The Enforcer and lead The Horsemen into battle. Unfortunately, the story called for Hennig to turn his back on The Horsemen and join the nWo, but the moment was still a great one.
7 Eddie Guerrero Wins the Big One
Overcoming personal demons and being told he's too small lit a fire under Eddie Guerrero that would become Latino Heat. It would all come to a head at No Way Out 2004 when the future Hall of Famer would take on Brock Lesnar. In an instant classic, Eddie would overcome one more demon, The Beast Incarnate, in a moment that showed the cream does indeed rise to the top as Eddie celebrated with the Bay Area fans - title in one hand, Mexican flag in the other.
T6. "The View Never Changes"
We could've made an entire list of touching moments just based on The Dream's promos. Somehow, Dusty Rhodes knew how to reach out through the TV screen and grab you. If you don't think so, watch a promo The Dream delivered that has been referred to as "the View Never Changes." It puts the final scene of Field of Dreams to shame as Dusty admits he neglected his boy while he set the world on fire, called out Arn Anderson for betraying "my 'thun" and asked to be The Natural's partner.
6 T6. The Rhodes Boys Stand Tall
More recently, we had the war between The Rhodes family and The Shield that culminated at Battleground 2013 when Goldust and Cody would team up against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns in a match for all three of the Rhodes boys livelihoods. The image of The American Dream and his children standing tall is one of greatest images in the career of all three men and a fitting lasting image of the American Dream.
5 Sting vs. Flair for the Final Nitro / Final Time
Before Hulk Hogan came to WCW, before the nWo and the Monday Night War, before there was a Monday Nitro, there was Sting and Ric Flair. Their feud encompassed all of WCW for years, as the pair gave their all to the promotion. When all of the purchased names were nowhere to be found on the final Nitro, there was still The Franchise and The Nature Boy gutting it out with one last match together. There aren't much better ways to end a promotion. As they embraced, Tony Schiavone said it best; this is what WCW is all about.
4 The Yes Movement at WrestleMania XXX
An 18–second squash match ignited the spark that created a monster. Daniel Bryan, long thought of by fans as the best wrestler of this generation, had been getting screwed instead of getting a chance to shine at the top of the card. Two years after that squash, the Yes Movement had reached its apex at WrestleMania XXX, where Bryan would beat The Game, The Animal, and The Viper, in one night, to achieve a dream that started in Shawn Michael's wrestling school.
3 The Resurrection of Jake the Snake Roberts
Undeniably, Jake Roberts was one of the top stars of the 80s and early 90s. Equally undeniable were the internal and external demons that took over his life. The man's ills always prevented him from taking his rightful place in the pantheon of wrestling greats. Until the Snake found DDP. Page convinced Jake to change his life and he would help him do it. It hasn't always been easy, but for the most part he has fought and won his inner battles. He was then able to take his rightful place as a 2014 Hall of Fame inductee in one of the most moving speeches in the history of the Hall.
2 HBK Says Goodbye
As evidenced by his infamous "lost his smile" speech, we all know that HBK knows how to tug at our heart strings. However, when it came time for Shawn Michaels to officially hang up his boots, he delivered his most compelling promo. While plenty of wrestlers have said they're going to retire (then don't), The Heartbreak Kid's retirement felt different, as if we really would never see him wrestle again. Despite a few Sweet Chin Musics, he has stayed true to his word, which made his speech that much better, telling the fans he spent more time with them in his adult life than his own family.
1 The Reunion of Randy and Liz
This is the quintessential moment of character building in wrestling. For years, we watched Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. First, he was the vicious beast to her beauty, then they became the premier power couple of the WWE, before a crazed Macho King banished Liz from his court forever. However, after losing a retirement match to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII, Elizabeth would save The Macho Man from getting berated by Queen Sherri. Savage stood confused for a few moments before embracing his love and hoisting her upon his shoulders. This was one of the greatest moments in wrestling history and remains an enduring image of the Hall of Famer and his bride.