Top 10 Onscreen Moments of the Decade

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Where do you start when you choose the top 10 TV moments of the decade? A decade that started with the appearance of the four Radicalz on Raw and ended with a nearly anonymous rookie beating John Cena for the WWE title? As hard as the task was, the best and brightest of the Pulse team got together and chose the 10 most memorable on-screen moments from the past decade. Before we get to the final list though, honorable mentions go to the moments that just missed the cut: Edge cashing in the first Money in the Bank contract at New Year’s Revolution 2006, Vince McMahon being shaved Bald at Wrestlemania 23, Shawn Michaels returns to active wrestling at Summerslam 2002, Billy & Chuck’s Wedding from 2002 (One of my personal favorites), ECW joins the Invasion in July 2001, the appearance of the ECW Zombie in 2006 and the series of promos that CM Punk cut on Jeff Hardy in 2009 after Punk’s heel turn. I have a friend that suggested Wrestlemania X-Seven in its entirety as the best TV moment of the decade but it came too late to be included. Now that we know which moments are not on the list, it’s time to start counting down the best TV moments of the first decade of the 21st century.

9b: The Rock’s promo from Wrestlemania XX (6 votes)
Is this the greatest Rock promo ever? Doubtful. But this promo preceded what may very well be The Rock’s last ever match in WWE. And what better place to do that than on the grandest stage of all, Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden. Coming back for one last match with the Rock’n’Sock Connection, The Rock showed once again why he will ever be the most electrifying man in sports and entertainment. Stopping Lilian Garcia from looking at the people’s package, giving Mick Foley his props, opening the door to the crowd and proving why he is the people’s champion – those are just some of the highlights of this relatively short, but truly classic Rock promo. Will we ever see The Rock wrestling again? Personally I doubt, but just the thought of hearing and seeing the Rock cut another promo, even if it happens only once a year, is a good enough reason to keep me tuned to WWE programming. And this is not the last time we see The Rock or Wrestlemania XX in this countdown.

9a: The Crowd vs. Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XX (6 votes)
If anyone ever needed proof to the power of the internet “dirt sheets”, look no further than this match. It was supposed to be an epic showdown between two main event performers but it will be remembered as one of the greatest crowd revolts ever. Several weeks before Wrestlemania XX word leaked that Brock Lesnar was leaving the WWE to pursue a football career and it was already common knowledge that Goldberg’s contract expired the day after Wrestlemania. But both items were only common knowledge to those reading the dirt sheets, which means everyone. And while WWE fans are not ECW fans, they hate to feel used or disrespected, and that what Goldberg and Lesnar made them feel. So the crowd had just one thing to do – shit on both competitors. Chants of “boring”, “you sold out” and “good bye” filled the arena as Lesnar and Goldberg took their very slow time to start the match. It did not help matters that the guest referee for this match was arguably the most popular WWE wrestler of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The only time that the crowd actually cheered was when Austin gave the two competitors stunners after the match. At one point Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler stopped even trying to make this match seem any better than it was, and Lawler even acknowledged the “sellout chants from a sellout crowd”. Sure, the match was terrible, but the crowd was priceless. And don’t think we’ve seen the last of Wrestlemania XX.

8) Ric Flair’s final match at Wrestlemania 24 (8 votes)
“I’m sorry, I love you”. The five words that ended the greatest, most legendary wrestling career of all time, that of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Just 24 hours after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame still as an active wrestler, Ric Flair walked into the ring for his last match ever, ready to face Shawn Michaels. The storyline, which started several months earlier, was that Flair had to win each and every match in order to stay an active wrestler, once he loses he must retire. After Shawn Michaels made the announcement that Flair would be inducted to the Hall of Fame, Flair challenged HBK to a match. At first Michaels was reluctant to accept and be the man to end Flair’s career, but the he accepted and a series of classic promos between the two ensued, with the highlight being Michaels calling Flair Old Yeller and Flair losing it like only he can. WWE even produced a perfect tribute video to Flair’s career, which they ran several times before the match (To this day I still can’t hear Leave the Memories Alone without thinking of Flair and getting emotional). Some people had concerns about the quality of the match, but Flair and HBK went out there and delivered what many consider the match of the year. And with Flair’s family at ringside and after looking hesitant to end his friend’s career, Michaels uttered the words “I’m sorry, I love you”, delivered one more sweet chin music and pinned the greatest wrestler of all time in the middle of the ring. Michaels didn’t stick around to celebrate and was quick to clear the stage for Flair to thank the crowd, hug his family and walk up the ramp with tears in his eyes to a deafening crowd response. But no one knew that this wasn’t Ric Flair’s real farewell. For that you’ll have to continue reading.

7) Ric Flair’s Retirement Ceremony (10 votes)
It’s a rare occasion when Vince McMahon does the right thing, but when he does, he does it perfectly. And they way he handled Ric Flair’s retirement was absolutely perfect. 24 hours after the historic match that ended Flair’s career, we got “Raw is Ric”. As Ric Flair was delivering his farewell address to the fans, Triple H crashed the party and introduced all the people that wanted to pay their respect to the greatest wrestler of all time. And in a nut shell, it was everybody. Ric Flair stood there in teary eyes as the Horsemen Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham & Dean Malenko, Evolution member Batista, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, Chris Jericho, John Cena, Shawn Michaels (who ordered matching watches for himself and Flair to commemorate the occasion) and most importantly of all, the Flair family, filled the ring and surrounded the star of the evening. Every other member of the WWE roster soon followed and surrounded the ring in appreciation for the greatest of them all. WWE dedicated 20 minutes of TV time to this ceremony, and those were perhaps the most touching 20 minutes of TV they ever produced. And while this is a list of the greatest on-screen moments, I chose to include a clip of what happened after Raw went off the air that night, when The Undertaker and Vince McMahon joined the ceremony. Thank you Ric, for everything.

6) Kurt Angle Debuts in TNA (11 votes)
TNA managed to get only one entry into this countdown, and even that is thanks to a WWE wrestler jumping ship. Kurt Angle is undoubtedly the biggest name to move to TNA from WWE since the company started in 2002. There were others in the past, most notably Jeff Hardy and Christian (Cage) but when the signing of Kurt Angle was announced, many thought that this will be the game changer, that once again we had a real wrestling war. The only question was what would TNA do with Kurt Angle and the answer was clear – everything and quick. People were salivating at the thought of a Kurt Angle – Samoa Joe feud and that was the first thing that we got. In the middle of a Joe interview Angle rose into the TNA entryway, decked in the American flag and looking straight at Joe. One headbutt and Angle-Slam later and we all knew that the wait is over, Angle vs. Joe is here. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to catapult TNA into the position they were hoping for, but it was a great moment nonetheless.

5) Eric Bischoff Debuts as General Manager of Raw (12 votes)
WCW has been dead for a long time. Mr. McMahon defeated the WCW/ECW alliance and beat Ric Flair for control of WWE. The only question left was who would be the new General Manager of Raw? The internet was buzzing with guesses and speculations but no-one was able to predict the identity of that person. If sometime during the nineties someone would say that Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon would shake hands and hug on national TV, he’d have been committed. Hell, he’d have been laughed at that same weekend in 2002. We were all shocked when Bischoff first appeared on WWE TV, and to quote Booker T, the immediate thought was “Tell me I didn’t just see that!”. It was like seeing Yitzhak Rabin shake Yasser Arafat’s hand in 1993. Moments later Bischoff cut an amazing promo that put himself as a key player in WWE’s TV world. Hell, even his theme song sent this message – “I’m back and better than ever”. Bischoff was in the spotlight again and Vince had another victorious moment as he was now the boss of his biggest business rival in history, the man who tried to put him out of business, the man who out-McMahoned him for 86 weeks. It was the same Bischoff of the nWo era, cocky, brash, abrasive but a great TV character. In the coming years Bischoff’s character was part of some of the greatest TV moments and innovative concepts, like the Raw Roulette, the creation of the Elimination Chamber and Billy & Chuck’s wedding. Of course Vince never missed an opportunity to humiliate Bischoff on the air, just because he could, but nothing that Bischoff went through dimmed the impact of his initial debut, the final nail in the coffin of WCW.

4) Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18 (13 votes)
Earlier we saw an example of how an audience can completely turn a match upside down. Here’s another case like this, only this time the Canadian crowd turned an okay match into a classic encounter. The year was 2002 and it was Hulk Hogan’s first match in WWE since 1993. A few weeks earlier Hogan returned to the promotion with his nWo buddies, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, and the match was set – The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan. The fitting title that was picked was Icon vs. Icon and it truly was. Making his return to the Toronto SkyDome, the location of his historic match with the Ultimate Warrior, Hogan was welcomed like no other wrestler that evening, and in fact, like no other WWE wrestler in a very long time. Wearing the nWo black and white and going against one of the two greatest faces of his era, Hogan was supposed to be the heel, but he was anything but. Not one of the nearly 70,000 people in attendance would boo him, not even against The Rock. At first Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler didn’t really know how to sell the crowd reaction, but they did not try to hide it. WWE knew they had to give the audience what they wanted and by the time the match was over, even though The Rock won, Hogan received the hero’s treatment and after taking care of Nash and Hall, Hogan and the Rock joined forces in the middle of the ring for a series of classic Hogan poses. It’s not often that WWE goes with the crowd reactions so quickly rather than try and force their way down the fans’ throats, and this is a fine example of that. But if you keep reading, you’ll see another example, just as amazing.

3) John Cena at One Night Stand 2 (16 votes)
“IF CENA WINS WE RIOT”. Once the WWE cameras focused on that sign when John Cena entered the ring for his title defense against RVD on ECW One Night Stand 2, everyone knew that this will not be the typical Cena match. Sure, he’s been booed by fans all over the country for a long time already, but he never faced the ECW fanboys. There was no chance that they would treat him as a face, no matter what he did, so WWE and Cena didn’t even bother. No smiling, minimalistic gestures, wearing his game face. After the fans kept throwing Cena’s hat and shirt back at him, he knew that he’d be safer doing ten more tours of “Tribute to the Troops” in Iraq and Afghanistan without protection than trying to pander to the ECW crowd. The crowd came to the Manhattan Center for one thing and one thing only – see their hero Rob Van Dam kick the crap out of the PG superstar John Cena, and they got what they wanted. After 20 minutes of booing and jeering at everything Cena did, they finally saw Rob Van Dam win his very first major wrestling title and celebrate in the stands as the idol of the fanboys. Hell, I’m a card carrying member of the Chain Gang and think Cena is one of the greatest wrestlers of this decade, but even I was excited to see him lose that night. Of course, RVD pissed it all away just a short while after that when he was arrested for possession of marijuana. Three and a half years later, RVD is somewhere on the indy circuit, the ECW fanboys are still crying in their parents’ basements because their beloved promotion is dead and Cena is still sitting at the top of the wrestling world and booed as a face. But no matter where he goes, he will never forget the reaction he got in June 2006.

2) The Ending of Wrestlemania XX (21 votes)
This used to be one of my all time favorite moments. Not just in wrestling, but across the board. Now I can barely even look at it. R.I.P Eddie Guerrero, R.I.P Nancy Benoit, R.I.P Daniel Benoit.

1) The Last WCW Nitro (27 votes)
Surreal. No other word could describe what happened on 3/26/01. Just one week earlier, the WCW broadcast team interviewed Eric Bischoff, who was supposed to buy the company. Bischoff announced that this episode would be “Night of Champions” and invited every WCW champion from the present and the past to return for the relaunch of WCW’s flagship program. Well, the show was still “Night of Champions” but instead of a relaunch it was a funeral. Vince McMahon, who purchased the promotion just two days earlier, opened the show live from Raw in Ohio, announcing his purchase of the company to those who did not know about it. While he was in full “Mr. McMahon” mode, it was obvious that his gloating wasn’t just an act. He was as happy as he ever was, knowing that he crushed the only real competition he’s ever had, knowing that once and for all the term professional wrestling (Or sports entertainment) can mean only McMahon. Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson didn’t really know how to handle that night’s broadcast, which included several cuts to WWE Raw. WCW actually put on a nice farewell show. Ric Flair (Who else) gave an emotional speech about the promotion and its history. He didn’t fail to mention that Vince Sr. was on the board that voted for Flair to be NWA champion when Vince Jr. was just trying to become an announcer. Booker T won the WCW championship that night from Scott Steiner, making himself the last real WCW and US Champion. The cruiserweight division was once again in the spotlight and WCW wrestlers gave candid, out of character interviews about the promotion and its history. The last match ever on WCW Nitro was the final encounter between long time rivals Sting and Ric Flair, with Sting coming on top. What followed were perhaps the most amazing 20 minutes in professional wrestling history. With Jim Ross and Paul Heyman on commentary, Vince McMahon walked into the Raw ring in Cleveland, Ohio for a simulcast that ran both on TNN and TNT. He gave a long promo about eliminating the competition. He asked the audience what to do with certain WCW wrestlers (Who knew that Buff Bagwell was so popular?) and said turned everything into a storyline. He announced that the contract for the purchase of WCW would only be finalized a week later when Billionaire Ted would come to Wrestlemania X-Seven. But then, an even more amazing thing happened. Shane McMahon, who was scheduled to wrestle Vince just six days later at Wrestlemania, walked into WCW’s ring in Tampa, Florida to announce that the contract was signed, and the name on the contract reads McMahon, but it reads Shane McMahon. To this day I still remember the feeling I had when I saw one McMahon in a Raw ring, another McMahon in a Nitro ring, and knowing that the whole thing ran on TNN and TNT simultaneously. Who who have ever guessed that the last wrestling content on TNT would be a promo for Wrestlemania X-Seven? Yes, that’s how Nitro ended. Could Vince have been more gracious to WCW and its fans? Probably, but then he wouldn’t be Vince McMahon.

The last Nitro made the top of our list not only because it was an amazing TV moment, but also because the effect of the WCW purchase is still felt today in North America’s wrestling business. 8 years have passed and to this day no other American promotion has even come close to being even a remote competition for WWE. Even when you look at this top 10 list, 8 spots go to WWE and the two other spots have a strong connection to WWE (Kurt Angle jumping from WWE to TNA and WWE shutting down WCW). The second decade of the 21st century promises to start with a bang as Hulk Hogan is set to debut on TNA and Bret Hart is making his return to WWE. If this is what the two major promotions have in mind for the first week, who knows what happens during the next 10 years. But it will be interesting.

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