The pop is as old as wrestling itself. No one is sure where the term came from but it’s still the moment every wrestler wants to capture. It’s one thing to have a good reaction to an entrance or a victory. It’s another to get a reaction so huge that literally every person in the arena is screaming for it. It can depend on the city as some towns (New York, Chicago, Orlando) somehow have much bigger reactions than other places. Thus, when the right moment occurs in the right place, the pop can be off the charts.
WWE has seen scores of them over the decades. It’s telling how what was considered a huge pop in the 1980s or ‘90s can seem quieter by today’s crowds. The size of the crowd also majorly helps as a stadium breaking out so massively in cheers for the right moment. Some shows are more famous than others yet it’s notable how scores of pops outdo anything from a Super Bowl or World Series. Here are the 10 greatest pops in WWE history which made these moments even more legendary.
10 John Cena Returns (Royal Rumble 2008)
Today, surprise returns for the Royal Rumble are commonplace. In 2008, most thought it would come down to Triple H or Batista or some other star in the match. When number 30 came up, the Big Show was seen as the likely entrant. Instead, John Cena’s music hit and the Madison Square Garden crowd reacted in absolute shock.
That was because Cena had been out to injury for months and wasn’t expected back for much longer. The pop was massive for the surprise more than Cena himself as he would win the Rumble. It’s still one of the biggest twists in WWE history which the crowd had to love.
9 Y2J Debuts
Throughout the summer of 1999, a mysterious “Countdown Clock” had been shown which appeared to be about the Millennium. When the Rock was in the ring doing a promo, the clock appeared to count down to “Y2J.” For the first time, “Break the Walls Down” played as “JERICHO” appeared on the screen.
The Chicago crowd went wild as Chris Jericho, fresh off leaving WCW, debuted with a promo that instantly made him a bigger star than ever. The crowd's reaction was critical in Jericho having one of the greatest debuts in WWE history.
8 The Hardys Return (WrestleMania 33)
At WrestleMania 33, Gallows and Anderson, Enzo and Cass and the Bar were set to fight in a Triple Threat ladder match for the tag team titles. Just as the match was about to begin, the New Day announced that a fourth team was being added. They briefly teased they were the team until a familiar music beat ignited.
The Orlando stadium crowd went absolutely berserk as the Hardys, fresh off a run in ROH, came out. The cheers were mixed with “Delete” chants as Matt and Jeff became tag champions once more. It was the best part of the show with the crowd reacting amazingly well to it.
7 CM Punk (Money in the Bank 2011)
CM Punk had made a huge deal in 2011 with his infamous “pipe bomb” speech mocking WWE. With his contract coming up, Punk made no secret that he was planning to leave as champion after winning the belt from John Cena at Money in the Bank. As it was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, the already hot crowd was absolutely molten when his music hit.
The entire main event was nothing but major pops for Punk and they came unglued when he won the title. For one night, Punk was the hottest man in all of wrestling.
6 The Rock Returns (2011)
It had been seven long years since the last time the Rock was on WWE programming in a pre-taped bit. That’s a good long time to build up major fan love. Early in 2011, WWE made a big deal of the special guest host for WrestleMania 27. With the lights darkened and lightning flashing, that famous “If ya smelllllll…..” hit and the arena erupted.
The Rock was back for a great promo mocking Michael Cole and setting up his beef with John Cena to make this one of the greatest returns in WWE history.
5 Stone Cold Saves The Day (Backlash 2000)
After a disappointing finish to WrestleMania 2000, WWE won back fans with Backlash. The entire show was quite good but the main event was absolutely terrific, with The Rock challenging Triple H for the WWE title with Shane as ref. Vince and his cronies were in the ring to beat The Rock down and let Triple H win. Then the sound of shattered glass erupted as Stone Cold Steve Austin matched out.
The crowd was going wild as Austin took out everyone with a chair. Linda McMahon followed it by shoving Stephanie to the ground. The Rock finished Triple H off for the title to close out a trio of huge pops.
4 Daniel Bryan Wins WWE Title (WrestleMania XXX)
WWE had never wanted Daniel Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania. But when the fans hijacked shows with the “YES” chant, they had no choice but to give in. Rumors abound Vince still wanted Triple H to win the opening match and be in the main event. But Hunter knew what a disaster that would be.
Instead, Bryan took it hard to both Barista and Randy Orton in a huge battle. Finally, Bryan made Batista tap out to allow 75,000 fans to chant “YES” over and over for a classic Mania ending.
3 Davey Boy Smith Win The IC Title
The original plan for Summer Slam 92 was to have Bret Hart defending the IC title against Shawn Michaels. When the show was moved to Wembley Stadium, it was changed to Bret defending against brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith. Smith was obviously the hometown hero with the crowd firmly on his side. He and Bret went at it in a terrific match even as Bret had to carry Smith for most of it.
It ended with Smith reversing a sunset flip into a pin and the crowd acting like England has just won the World Cup. It was easily the high point of the Bulldog’s career and still a great moment.
2 The Ultimate Warrior Wins The IC Title
Despite his act as an Elvis impersonator and very little ring talent, The Honky Tonk Man is still the longest-reigning Intercontinental champion of all time. For 14 months, he managed to cheat his way to victory or get disqualified to keep the belt. At SummerSlam ‘88, HTM was to face Brutus Beefcake but he was injured.
Confident that he'd win no matter what, Honky Tonk stupidly challenged anyone to come out and face him. The Madison Square Garden crowd erupted as a familiar rock beat played and The Ultimate Warrior charged to the ring. In just 30 seconds, Warrior destroyed HTM and the crowd rejoiced seeing his reign finally end.
1 Mick Foley Wins The WWE Title
After being double-crossed several times by the McMahons, Mick Foley finally had his shot at the WWE title on RAW. With the Rock having the Corporation with him, Mankind brought DX for backup. It was a wild no-DQ match that broke down into a huge brawl between the two sides. At which point, the sound of shattering glass filled the arena.
The crowd went utterly insane as Stone Cold Steve Austin, absent for a few months, marched to the ring. He smashed The Rock with a chair and let Mankind get the pin for the belt. It was an epic event with a fantastic crowd making it iconic.