Wrestling has always been sports entertainment. Vince McMahon was just the guy to make it obvious. Wrestling always was planned and mixed in scripted actions, often to a wild degree. In the old kayfabe days, a wrestler would sell an injury while out of the ring (even feigning blindness) to get fans going. They play on the emotions of those watching and use them to succeed for the business. It always pushes them on and the best stars are the ones who can get fans going in a brilliant way. True, some moments are bad because of how obviously scripted they are. Too many “emotional” moments fall flat while stuff meant to be funny is just horrible to watch. But at times, wrestling can startle you by how well it sucks you into a bit to stir the emotions inside you.
Funny moments can abound like The Rock, a master of comedy in wrestling to get fans going. Other moments can be sadder, real life tragedy intruding although at times, it’s the happiness of a moment that pulls you into it. It’s telling how WWE has been able to give fans both of these, moments that leave you in tears from laughter or from the pure raw emotion poured out that reminds you how real it can be. Here are 8 moments where WWE made fans tear up or even openly cry and seven that had them howling with laughter to remind you of the great emotions WWE as “sports entertainment” can bring up in even a jaded fan.
15 CRY: Bryan’s Retirement
Life just isn’t fair sometimes. It was obvious WWE was reluctant to accept Daniel Bryan as the star fans wanted. He wasn’t that big, he wasn’t flashy, he had a thick beard, he wasn’t the “chosen guy.” But the fans were making it clear they wanted Bryan on top to the point of near mutinies at shows. Even Vince couldn’t ignore the massive “YES” chants or the rants on social media and thus at WrestleMania XXX, he had Bryan win the title. Sadly, that was cut short by a neck injury but fans excited to see him back and upset when WWE seemed reluctant to pull the trigger in 2015. He did win the IC title and hoped that could be a way back to the top.
But those issues once more came up and Bryan was forced to announce his retirement due to severe head injuries. It was heartbreaking to see a great worker forced to hang it up just as he reached the top and fans saddened at his career ending.
14 LAUGH: The Showster
While he’s pushed a lot as a monster, The Big Show really does have a great knack for comedy. In early 2000, he was doing impressions of some other wrestlers while in a feud with Kurt Angle. This led to a match at Backlash where Angle got things going with some funny lines slamming Washington D.C. But Big Show one upped him beyond infinity by coming out to “Real American,” dressed in a yellow shirt, trunks and boots with a bandanna over a balding wig. He was already great doing the poses but then took the mic to do a dead-on Hulk Hogan impression, nailing every one of his usual lines like “Dude” and “Brother.”
It was great with the fans laughing as Angle attacked and Show “Hulked Up” to fight him off. Jim Ross laughed that “more people are chanting Hogan than have in years!” Show won in the end but it was a beautiful moment to sell his great comic timing.
13 CRY: Ric and Charlotte
For a brief, scary moment, it looked like we’d lose the greatest. Ric Flair is an icon in wrestling, a man who has survived everything from a plane crash to years of hard partying to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. More than one guy has cracked on Flair living through so much that should kill others. But in mid 2017, it looked like his luck ended when he was rushed to the hospital to relieve an intestinal blockage and was placed in a medically induced coma.
It was frightening as Flair was in a coma with worries he wouldn’t make it. In November, Charlotte beat Natalya on SmackDown in Flair’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina to win the Women’s title and dedicated it to her father. As she headed out, Flair made his first public appearance since being hospitalized to a monster pop. He hugged his daughter who was clearly happy to have him still around, just as fans were. A world without Flair just doesn’t seem right and thankfully he was still around for this great moment.
12 LAUGH: Kane and Daniel Bryan Anger Management
When WWE started putting Kane and Daniel Bryan together, it seemed an odd fit. The huge, brooding masked monster and the technical marvel were an odd match but somehow, their chemistry made them fit. At first enemies, the duo was soon moved into a tag team that turned into a surprise success. As part of the gimmick, WWE shot videos of Bryan forced to attend anger management classes and yelling at a kid in a goat mask. Kane then showed up with bits like tossing a list into a trash can and setting it on fire.
But any doubts in the skits were crushed by the absolutely priceless moment when Kane was asked to share his life with the group. He proceeded to matter of factly detail his entire ridiculous backstory, touching on burying Paul Bearer, electrocuting Shane’s testicles, Katie Vick and “torturing Pete Rose.” The flat delivery made it even better as fans were howling. It showed these two really could work well together and behind that monster is a funny side that should be shown more often.
11 CRY: Connor the Crusher
It was a story designed to pull at the heartstrings. Connor Michalek had developed a brain tumor at only three years old and despite slews of chemotherapy and surgeries, the diagnosis was terminal. A huge wrestling fan, Connor had wanted to meet his all-time favorite wrestler, Daniel Bryan and his parents pushed on social media for it to happen. Always eager for some good publicity, WWE arranged for Connor to meet Bryan and Kane went along as a surprise bonus. It got major attention and Connor soon becoming a star in his own right. This continued into WrestleMania weekend and Connor hung around the locker room and Triple H even letting him “pin” him in the middle of the ring. It paid off as Connor was front-row when Bryan won the WWE title and the two embraced.
Less than three weeks later, Connor passed away at the age of 8. WWE joined in the mourning with Bryan tearful over what happened. They created a special award in his honor and even inducted him in the WWE Hall of Fame. He lived the dreams of fans yet deserved a longer life and WWE should be credited letting this kid enjoy the limelight.
10 LAUGH: Mae Young’s Son Returns
It remains one of the absolutely nuttiest moments of the Attitude Era, which was what made its return all the better. In 1999, Mark Henry had been “Sexual Chocolate” and somehow in an affair with Mae Young. She shocked everyone by announcing she was pregnant and later giving birth to…a glove. No one understood it and it was dismissed as a stupid bit. In 2011, for the 1,000th episode of RAW, AJ Lee was getting ready for her marriage to Daniel Bryan. The camera suddenly moved from her to a figure in the doorway, a glasses-wearing guy dressed in what looked to be a giant glove. With Mae at his side, he introduced himself as Mae’s son “all grown up.” Michael Cole summed up the feelings of many watching by bursting out in hysterical laughter. It was a beautiful call-back and a great sight gag to let the joke pay off at long last.
9 CRY: Hart Foundation Reunites
It was meant to be a heel moment but it came off wonderfully emotional. For three years, Bret Hart had been feuding with jealous brother Owen with brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith also getting involved. In March of 1997, Owen and Davey Boy (the tag champions) finally had their tensions explode in a one-on-one match, each threatening to go wild on the other. Bret raced out to stop it, taking the mic to chastise the duo. He then pressed in on their history, saying how much he loved each man and they were family, which was more important.
Bret poured his heart out to Owen on how close they had always been and he’d always been willing to forgive Owen for what he’d done. He continued to press they were stronger together and “not let these Americans tear us apart.” Owen tearfully hugged Bret and Davey Boy joined in. The Hart Foundation was reunited, stronger than ever and while it helped Bret’s heel act, it was also truly moving to see him and his brother finally mend fences.
8 LAUGH: Eric Bischoff Trial
This could have been a mess but somehow, it worked out wonderfully. In 2005, Vince McMahon declared he’d had enough of Eric Bischoff’s screw-ups and decided to put him “on trial” for his job. Bischoff had the Coach defending him while the prosecutor was Mick Foley and Vince the judge. The trial segments were funny with appearances by Mae Young and a wonderful bit of the Boogeyman freaking everyone out (with an utterly priceless shot of Foley flatly eating a moonpie after his appearance). When Chris Masters took the stand and gave his name, Vince said he was disqualified as “your real name is Christopher Mordetzky.”
The best moment was when Maria, the ultra-ditzy gal, came out and insisted on being interviewed by Mr. Socko. As soon as she was pressed, she suddenly talked in an incredibly intelligent and scholarly tone to chastise Bischoff on his actions, a brilliant turn on the act. It all ended with Bischoff fired and Cena tossing him into a waiting garbage truck, a fine send-off to the hated heel.
7 CRY: Edge Retires
At first, it looked like a complex work. In 2011, Edge was coming off a big WrestleMania win and World champion, at the top of his game as one of the biggest stars in all of WWE. He came out on RAW in street clothes and began what looked like a typical promo. He talked of his love for wrestling and such but then began speaking of his issues with his neck and going in for a checkup. The results of which was his doctor telling him that the only thing to do was retire or risk severe, life-threatening neck damage.
As he spoke in a voice clearly racked with emotion, it began to dawn this was no act, no storyline, this was totally for real. He poured his heart out on how much he loved this and hated giving it up but felt it wasn’t right for fans to see him fall apart. He did his iconic entrance one last time to a huge pop before a final bow. Given his fabulous career, it was heart-breaking to see Edge have to leave when he didn’t want to and a moment fans hated to have to see.
6 LAUGH: This Is Your Life
It was a nutty bit that is now a famous one in the Attitude Era. Vince Russo got flack for a lot but he should be remembered for just letting Rock and Mick Foley cut loose on this. The Rock 'n Sock Connection was formed with the idea of Mankind loving Rock but Rock treating him like a moron. In an attempt to win favor, Mankind organized a grand celebration for The Rock’s birthday in a “This Is Your Life” segment.
Balloons and glitter filled the ring as out came a slew of people from The Rock’s past like a teacher, a high school love, Yurtle the clown and more. Each was given the treatment of The Rock berating them with insults and catchphrases before kicking them out of the ring. Mankind also provided them with matching jackets and a special version of Mister Socko. The topper was The Rock snapping that his birthday was six months earlier. Amazingly, this remains one of the highest rated RAW segments of all time and still a beautiful showcase of how well these two got along.
5 CRY: The Eddie Guerrero Tribute Show
It just wasn’t fair. Eddie Guerrero was one of wrestling’s biggest success stories. He had broken out early as a star only to hit rock bottom with drinking and drug abuse, losing his job and family. But Eddie bounced back, getting himself clean and working his way back up to WWE Champion. He was still doing great in late 2005 with plans for him to get the World title to give Batista a chance to heal up. But the morning that was to happen, Eddie was found lifeless, a heart defect added onto by his long-term abuse.
Both RAW and SmackDown were dedicated to him with a moving music video set to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” opening it up. Video tributes were packed with wrestlers sharing stories and in the ring, they would also pay tribute with shirts and such. Long-time friends like Rey Mysterio and Eddie’s nephew Chavo would do his moves and moved by his loss.
4 LAUGH: The Rock as a Referee
In 1999, The Rock really was coming into his own as a mega-star. Not just in the ring but on the mic as his promos were taking off with such catchphrases such as “Finally, The Rock has come back…” and more. On a SmackDown episode, The Rock had been challenging Triple H for the title when Davey Boy Smith made his return and attacked Rock to cost him the belt. Smith and Hunter were soon going at it so Rock was made the special referee for a match between them.
He was in fine form, including when Hunter had Smith pinned but Rock just stood there and mock applauded. As Smith attacked, The Rock went outside, put on a headset and did some commentary. When Smith had Triple H knocked out, The Rock entered with a mic to start counting. “1…2…It doesn’t matter if The Rock counts to three!” The fans went nuts as The Rock ended up laying out both guys. He then did a fantastic People’s Elbow on Smith which had him literally sliding across the ring. A true testament to The Rock’s ability to entertain.
3 CRY: Randy Savage and Elizabeth Reunite
For years, Randy Savage and Elizabeth had been the First Couple of WWE. Savage was a heel who berated Elizabeth but reacted with jealousy at anyone else going after her. When he turned face and champion, Elizabeth was a great aid, with the two now looking like a happy couple. Savage turned heel again as the Macho King and Elizabeth was involved now and then. At WrestleMania VII, Savage lost a “retirement match” to The Ultimate Warrior and, upset over losing her meal ticket, Sherri kicked him down. Elizabeth ran out from the stands to toss Sherri out and she and Savage looked at each other. Then, finally, they embraced as the fans went wild. Savage carried her on his shoulders and even held the ring ropes open for her to exit. Fans were seen crying and it was a great bit to end a period of Savage’s career.
2 LAUGH: DX Impersonates the Nation
In 1998, WWE was really taking off thanks to the hot undercard. Among the big bits was a feud between The Nation of Domination and D-Generation X. The Nation was absent when their music hit and out came DX dressed up like the Nation. Triple H was “The Crock” with the fake sideburns and eyebrow. Road Dogg was “B-Lo” with a huge chest protector and just repeating anything Triple H said. Billy Gunn was “The Godfather”. X-Pac was “Mizark Henry” and looking like Fat Albert. Chyna was herself but the scene stealer was comedian Jason Sensation as Owen Hart with a huge fake nose.
The audience was laughing as they did lines mocking the Nation, the topper being Sensation’s dead-on Owen impression that sounded just like the real thing. It was a great bit to fire up the feud and set the stage for slews of top “impersonation bits” over the years.
1 CRY: Owen Hart Tribute
It was the first (but sadly not the last) time that WWE had to dedicate a show to an active wrestler passing away. In May of 1999, Owen Hart tragically died in a fall during a stunt gone wrong at a PPV. The argument over letting the show continue after it rages on today but it was a stunning bit given how well-loved Owen was. The next night’s RAW was a huge tribute to him with a 10-bell salute and various wrestlers talking about him. Jeff Jarrett, Owen’s former tag team partner, was sobbing as was Mark Henry with others teary-eyed as they talked about favorite Owen memories.
The Godfather and Road Dogg called off their match to “go burn a few and tell Owen stories.”
The Rock did a fantastic promo in tribute and the topper was Steve Austin coming to the ring to toast Owen, despite their bad blood over Owen injuring Austin’s neck years before.
It was a powerful night in so many ways to honor a man taken far too soon and still one that can choke you up today.