The most significant boom period in professional wrestling was during the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars with WCW and WWE going head-to-head. However, that was not when WWE hit the mainstream for the first time. Instead, that happened in the '80s when Hulk Hogan's Rock and Wrestling Connection took the world by storm.
WWE had a cartoon, its stars were appearing in movies, and celebrities from all walks of life appeared at WWE events. It was a fun time to be a WWE fan with Hulkamania running wild. However, it wasn't all about Hulk Hogan. There was a lot of important matches in the '80s that set the table for the future of professional wrestling.
10 BRUNO SAMMARTINO VS. LARRY ZBYSZKO
Way before Hulkamania started, Bruno Sammartino was the King of WWE. He only held the WWE world title twice, but his 4,040 days as champion are the longest in history, almost 2,000 more days than Hulk Hogan's combined six title reigns. When Bruno was slowing down and getting older, he had a protege coming up.
That man was Larry Zbyszko. Then, in 1980, the impossible happened, and Zbyszko turned on Sammartino. The Living Legend began a feud with his former student, and the two had a huge match at Shea Stadium on Aug. 9, 1980, with over 36,000 people showing up to see Sammartino beat Zbyszko in a steel cage match.
9 MAGNIFICENT MURACO VS. SUPERFLY SNUKA
Mick Foley has done more crazy things in professional wrestling than almost anyone. He had his ear ripped off in a barbed wire match. Undertaker threw him off the top of the Hell in a Cell and then chokeslammed him through the roof of the same cell. Foley has said that there is one reason he decided to become a wrestler.
On Oct. 17, 1983, Mick Foley was a teenager in attendance at a match in Madison Square Garden. In the biggest moment that night, Superfly Jimmy Snuka climbed to the top of the steel cage and hit his Superfly Splash onto the Magnificent Muraco, a move that is normal now but was groundbreaking at the time.
8 HULK HOGAN VS. IRON SHEIK
Hulk Hogan had worked in WWE before, but when he asked to appear in Rocky III, and WWE told him no, he left and returned to the AWA. However, the movie made Hogan a bigger star and Vince McMahon Jr. saw something big in the blonde, tanned California big man.
McMahon signed him to return and hot-shotted him to the world title. The Iron Sheik won the WWE title from Bob Backlund when the champ's manager threw in the towel. Fans hated the Sheik, and when Hulk Hogan came to the ring and dropped a leg on Sheik to win the title, he became the biggest name in professional wrestling in the '80s.
7 HULK HOGAN AND MR. T VS. RODDY PIPER AND PAUL ORNDORFF
Vince McMahon put everything he owned on the line to hold a massive wrestling show called WrestleMania. It was a gamble, and if it failed, McMahon would lose WWE and end up out on his back. However, he had a star in Hulk Hogan and then he started to hire celebrities to work the event.
The main event saw Hogan team with movie and television star Mr. T to battle Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. The match -- and the card itself -- was a major success, and it is the sole reason WWE has become the massive promotion it is today.
6 HULK HOGAN VS. ANDRE THE GIANT
For many years, Andre the Giant was one of the most respected names in professional wrestling. He had a kayfabe undefeated streak and was usually just an act that came into territories whenever the promoters wanted someone to teach their top heels a lesson. In the '80s, Hulk Hogan became the biggest star in WWE.
The story was simple. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan convinced Andre the Giant that Hogan looked down on him and refused to allow him a title shot. Andre wanted his first world title and turned heel to challenge Hogan. WrestleMania III drew over 90,000 people to witness Hulk Hogan bodyslam Andre the Giant and cement his legacy.
5 RANDY SAVAGE VS. RICKY STEAMBOAT
In the '80s, it was all about character, and the shows had almost nothing to do with great wrestling. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog, Hacksaw Duggan, and more got by on their charisma and did very little in the ring outside of their limited ring sets.
They told good stories, but they were not technical wizards at all. Then there was Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat -- two of the top wrestlers in WWE at the time. They came out at WrestleMania III and turned in the best technical match in WWE at the time, and a match still considered one of the best of all-time.
4 HULK HOGAN VS. RANDY SAVAGE
The two most prominent names in WWE for several years were Hulk Hogan as the monster babyface and Macho Man Randy Savage as the hated heel. However, the time came where Macho Man needed help, and Miss Elizabeth ran back and brought out Hulk Hogan to save him. The Mega Powers was born.
The Mega Powers ended up as one of the most popular pairings in WWE history -- until they imploded. It was a great story, as Savage's intense jealousy of anyone being around Elizabeth caused him to snap. This led to WrestleMania V where Savage came in as world champion and lost his title to Hulk Hogan.
3 THE ROYAL RUMBLE
In 1988, WWE developed a new gimmick match. The match was a battle royal that involved two wrestlers starting in the ring with a new man joining every few minutes. The event was the Royal Rumble, and WWE had Pat Patterson put the entire match together from start to finish.
That first Royal Rumble saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan take the win. It was a landmark event, and there have now been 35 Royal Rumble matches in history, two of them including women and one including 41 superstars in Saudi Arabia. The Royal Rumble is now the second biggest event of the year following WrestleMania.
2 HULK HOGAN VS. ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Hulk Hogan had been on top of WWE for most of the '80s, and the company decided it was time for a change. Hogan was planning to take time off, and WWE decided he should pass the torch to another babyface superstar. Instead of having a heel win and then lose to the next big babyface, as usual, WWE had a face vs. face match.
This happened at WrestleMania VI, and it was one of the only times in WWE history that a babyface Hulk Hogan took on another babyface. It was also historic because Ultimate Warrior pinned Hulk Hogan cleanly, something that WWE fans had rarely witnessed before.
1 RANDY SAVAGE VS. ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Move ahead to WrestleMania VII. Ultimate Warrior had already lost his world title to Sgt. Slaughter when Macho Man Randy Savage interfered. The reason was simple. Warrior refused to give Savage a title shot, so Savage ruined Warrior's title run.
At WrestleMania VII, Ultimate Warrior beat Randy Savage in a match where Savage had to retire from WWE. It was arguably the best match of Warrior's career. However, what made this match special was that Sensational Sherri attacked Macho after the match and Miss Elizabeth made her return to save him. The two reunited and there was not a dry eye in the building.