Top 5 WrestleMania Shocks

Columns, Top Story

It’s rather hard to pull off genuine surprises at major wrestling shows now, what with this here blasted internet gimmick stealing everyone’s thunder. If Vince McMahon had his way we would all be cowering in the pre-war years and basking in his carny glory with nary a care in the world. Well, except for the lack of food, money, employment, clothing, housing, medicine and so on but, hey, what does he care, he’s got your shiny nickel and his circus is three towns over by now, nyuk-nyuk. So instead WWE has to blatantly invade the privacy of their employees just to make sure they don’t ruin things for you, the gentle viewer. That’s why when I go on the internet I am sure to start, continue and end my browsing session with nowt but! Sometimes, however, surprises are possible. Hell, sometimes WWE even manages to surprise itself. It doesn’t happen very often at WrestleMania, since that show is in theory meant primarily to end feuds, plus it’s big enough to not need the shock-factor selling point, yet here are a few memorable ones…

1. Not dead yet (Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania VIII)

In 1992 a demographic wad of kids too young to know any better, lacking any internet to pretend they did either, had no idea what had happened to the Ultimate Warrior since he was last seen chasing two Arabs with a chair like an utter mad bastard. In truth he had actually tried to get money he was allegedly owed from Vince McMahon, which in many respects is a far worse idea than picking a fight with Iraq. Vince, in any event getting rather angsty about the steroid scandal of the time, told him to go play in the traffic. Warrior did just that (not literally… or then again maybe not, hard to tell with this guy) and yet a few months down the line a peace treaty was confirmed between the two. Hulk Hogan was leaving wrestling to become a top TV star and movie icon, which worked out real well, and so Vince naturally assumed that the power of WOYAH would be enough to replace him as the top babyface. Perhaps Vince was watching a different promotion in 1990. Anyway, Warrior came back with a slighter physique than before due to the ongoing steroid controversy. He also had a new haircut. These two factors were enough for many of those dumb kids to assume that the ‘real’ Warrior had died and been replaced with some sort of genetically modified Von Erich. Wrestling fans rarely miss the opportunity to embarass themselves, remember. After all, Warrior never dies, not when his essence remains in the hearts of all the little WOYAHS. He had also managed to wangle himself some creative control over his character, which led to an escalating pattern of numptyness that began with a voodoo feud against Papa Shango and ran all the way into smoke-and-mirror parlour tricks in WCW six years later. Still, it all began again in a major mark-out manner as he sprinted from Arkham Asylum to the middle of the ring to save Hogan from Shango and the confused Sid. The greatest run-in of all time works far better if you have this song playing in the background instead of the WOYAH theme…


2. Everybody loved a happy ending (Miss Elizabeth, WrestleMania VII)

This was far and away the best romantic storyline WWE has ever produced. Hell, it’s probably the only decent one they’ve done, since they gave up with Kurt/Stephanie and chickened out of Billy/Chuck. Although, just like George Lucas and Star Wars, there’s no chance in hell that they had it all planned from the beginning, the Savage/Liz love affair certainly developed into an epic for the ages. The charismatic and talented wrestler who wears his heart on his sleeve and often lets his passions consume his ambitions… The graceful and nurturing woman who helps save him from himself and becomes his muse… Eventually his jealousy overcomes them and forces them apart… He tries to find solace in another woman but her greed and pettiness have a negative effect on him and he doesn’t reach the heights of old… Before too long he has spiralled into a situation where his pride will cost him his career, yet at the last stand, at the very end of his hope, despite the mistakes of old, she is there for him, a beautiful personification of redemption… He loses everything but he gains her back and so they both win love after all… Until they split up again two years later, she goes over to the dark side and dies and he turns into a crazy lost soul, but let’s not dwell on that. Maybe I’m overplaying it a little but this was HUGE at the time, in no small part thanks to the classic Savage/Warrior match preceeding the reunion. It immediately entered the pop-canon of wrestling and remains there to this day, as seen in the Jay Lethal/So Cal Val homage in TNA, and in Stephanie McMahon’s booking career. Crikey. Enjoy the moment:


3. Sold his soul to Satan himself (Steve Austin, WrestleMania XVII)

The real shock here was not so much what they did as the why, where, when and how of it. Austin giving up the good fight after 4 years and siding with McMahon seemed plain dumb to the masses, which says a lot considering the remedial status of the masses, but at least it represented an attempt at taking things in a new direction. That in itself deserves more respect than WCW scratching its arse and reuniting the nWo whenever everything else failed, which it almost always did. However, why try to turn Austin heel at the biggest show in company history in front of a rabid Texan audience, when all they wanted to see was a happy ending as their hero won back the title after a year off through career-threatening injury? Why try and see through a major main-event heel turn when the only other major babyface was leaving the company to go Hollywood and nobody else could fill the void? Why stress out creative about focusing on something this big when the WCW project needed such delicate handling? The real shame of it is that there was indeed some credibility behind a proud man losing confidence in his ability to not lose his success like the last time without the supervision he once hated. Sounds better than conversations with imaginary watches or trying to serenade Vince McMahon… unless Kurt Angle gets involved:


4. Who ate all the pies? (Roddy Piper, WrestleMania XIX)

To be honest, I can’t even remember what the finish of the Hogan/Vince match was, I just remember being shocked at the heavily-pregnant Piper turning up to hit both men and spit on the pair of ’em. Nobody seen it coming, least of all since just a few months ago Piper had been in TNA cutting promos about how Vince Russo and WWE had to ‘fess up and take responsibility for the way Owen Hart died. Still, if a tree falls in a forest with nobody around to hear it, what sound does it make? In this case, the sound of Vince in red-face mode yelling about how he created WrestleMania and Hulkamania and the Declaration of Independence and the theory of relativity, dammit. So while he lived out his latest midlife crisis in front of the world by trying to prove to himself that he meant more to his business than Hogan, he got Piper in to join in the fun and recreate petty jealousy and fake vendettas from twenty years earlier. Cue several glorious months of Smackdown involving Sean O’Haire’s wrestling career imploding, Rikishi getting hit with a coconut, a one-legged guy in an ass-kicking contest, Mr America, and even Vince feeling up his daughter. So don’t dare complain about the state of the show today, okay?


5. THIS MATCH SUCKS (Goldberg/Lesnar, WrestleMania XX)

WrestleMania – the show that attracts diehard fans. Madison Square Garden – the arena that attracts the Die Hard fans. New York – the area that attracts the John McClanes of the fanbase. Goldberg – the last remnant of the promotion that these fans had been brainwashed into despising, WCW. Brock Lesnar – the guy that swiftly earned himself equal treatment owing to some surprising personal decisions that had only just become known to these fans. Steve Austin – the one guy the fans would in general seem to always love no matter what, in the ring with the two aforementioned hate figures as they tried to work a match. Combine all of these elements together and you’d have a recipe for very heated disaster. Some 20,000 voices cried out in hateful, drunken unison about the suckage of Goldberg, the sucktitude of Lesnar, the suckosity of the match, and the deep-held desire amire all the sucking that they would all suck off and never return. It was hilarious. Not a shock as such, perhaps, although the Lesnar news leaking certainly was and not even WWE seemed to think that the crowd would react quite as virulently as it did. Score one for the internet…