When you think of key moment of new stars rising to the top of the mountain, Wrestlemania has given us a huge list of moments that created stars. Wrestlemania 6, Ultimate Warrior defeats Hulk Hogan clean for the WWF Title; Wrestlemania 13, Stone Cold Steve Austin fighting through a bloody brawl with Bret Hart; Wrestlemania 21, John Cena and Batista were presented as the new generation of stars; these are just 3 stand-out moments where new stars were born.
Over the years Wrestlemania has evolved, as we begin the road into the thirty second edition questions about star power is a key concern. Over the past few Wrestlemania’s part timers have headlined and been the focus. Undertakers past 8 Wrestlemania matches have been remarkable, Triple H, since taking a step out of the ring has faced Undertaker and Brock Lesnar at the grand daddy of them all. The Game is now set to defend the WWE World Heavyweight championship against Roman Reigns. The Rock has been heavily featured in the past 5 Wrestlemanias with John Cena and making surprise appearances in the last two. In addition to Triple H headling, Brock Lesnar will face Dean Ambrose and Shane McMahon will challenge the Undertaker. No doubt, the majority of these will provide “star value” and drawing power to increase PPV buys and have also provided incredible matches, but is it right? Will it affect the long term business of WWE?
The first key standout moment at Wrestlemania, was a match for the Intercontiental title at Wrestlemania 3. Inside the Pontiac Silverdome, 93,173 fans stood in owe of the match between Ricky The Dragon Steamboat and Randy Savage. The match made a star out of both Savage and Steamboat, changing the way WWE looks at its talent. and inspired a generation of stars including Chris Jericho. The following year Randy Savage captured the vacant WWE title in a tournament at Wrestlemania 4, a new star was born.
Wrestlemania 6, saw the highly popular and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, The Ultimate Warrior face off against Hulk Hogan. For the first time it was a match that pitted two faces against each other at Wrestlemania. The torch was passed onto the Warrior that night, once again making a new star.
Wrestlemania 9, saw two new stars battle it out for the WWE Championship, Bret Hart defending against Yokozuna. Whilst it featured two new stars and saw the start of the “New Generation” within WWE, this moment was marred by Hulk Hogan challenging the newly crowed champion and winning the title just minutes after Yokozuna won the title.
Wrestlemania 10 was once again headlined by Bret Hart, who actually fought in two matches. The first in a classic match against his younger Brother Owen, followed by a rematch of Wrestlemania 9 against Yokozuna.
The most significant moment of Wrestlemania 10 involved Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, battling it out for the Intercontiental title in a ladder match a match that was number 3 in the top 20 Wrestlemania matches of all time by IGN. Shawn Michaels faced Bret Hart in an iron man match at Wrestlemania 12 in a 60+ minute classic match. This match, on top of the ladder match solidified Michaels as a main event superstar.
Stone Steve Austin become an overnight hero when he battled Bret Hart in a bloody submission match at Wrestlemania 13. Austin had been gathering plenty of momentum as a heel in the months prior to this, however his never quit attitude proved that he was the next big star of the company. The following year Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to become WWF Champion and become one of the sports biggest ever stars.
Also at Wrestlemania 14, The Rock was interviewed by Gennifer Flowers, during this interview The Rock showed the beginnings of his charismatic style that would define The People’s Champion. The Rock would defend his WWF Title against Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 15. Undertaker’s long feud with Kane cumulate with a classic match in Boston. In a clever move by delaying the match, it allowed Kane to become a huge star as a result.
Edge, Christian, Jeff and Matt Hardy and the Dudley Boyz, stole the show at both Wrestlemania 16 and 17 in a triple threat Ladder and TLC matches. Both matches really showcased all 6 wrestlers as future stars and provided countless number of highlight video moments.
Wrestlemania 19 was headlined by Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle, cementing Brock Lesnar’s year-long run to the top. At the 20th anniversary Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were made into main event stars. Wrestlemania 21 cemented John Cena and Batista as main event players. Cena would have a stellar WWE title match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 23 to help fight his critics.
Wrestlemania 21 would begin the first of five Money In The Bank ladder matches, a concept to create new stars. Whilst this provided an opportunity for those stars who were not in a major storyline to have a showcase match at Wrestlemania it didn’t really create any stars at Wrestlemania itself. The success or lack of would be later realised once the contract had been cashed in. Don’t get me wrong, every match was heavily entertaining and provided brilliant drama for Wrestlemania. However as a showcase for new stars to be born at Wrestlemania, it didn’t really provide it in the way we have previously seen.
Wrestlemania 22 was all about Edge’s battle with the hardcore legend Mick Foley. After cashing in the Money In The Bank contract earlier that year only to lose the title 3 weeks later Edge needed a moment to ensure he would be a main event player. His match with Foley provided that moment to make Edge a main event star. Edge would main event Wrestlemania 24, defending his World title against Undertaker.
Wrestlemania 27, should have been the dawning of a new star, however instead of focusing on The Miz beating John Cena to retain the WWE title, the focus of the end of Wrestlemania instead would be setting up its mega main event of The Rock vs John Cena for the following year. What a way to make and destroy a wrestlers momentum in such a short amount of time.
Wrestlemania 28 will be known for the event that propelled Daniel Bryan into the spotlight, the birthplace of the “Yes Movement”. It wasn’t meant to be that way. Sheamus was booked to kick off Wrestlemania in a bang, defeating Bryan for the World Heavyweight championship in just 18 seconds. It was meant to make Sheamus look like a dominant champion, instead Bryan would capture the spotlight for poor booking. Wrestlemania 29, showcased the Shield, in an incredible match against Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show. It also provided the debut of Fandango.
At the thirtieth edition of WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan secured his main event legacy by defeating Triple H, and Orton plus Batista to win the WWE Championship. The following year, Seth Rollins stamped his mark on the WWE by becoming the first man to cash in Money In The Bank at Wrestlemania becoming the first new World Champion since Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania 22.
Realistically, before Seth Rollins kicked started his WWE title run last year, the last big moment when a huge star was created from a Wrestlemania moment was Edge back at Wrestlemania 22. Don’t get me wrong, every Wrestlemania since has provided brilliant matches, including several involving younger stars.
The focus of Wrestlemania has changed, it’s about the big matches inside large arena’s. Part timers have been brought in to help boost numbers, however this has resulted in less focus on those big matches involving younger talent. Newer stars aren’t been given the chance to showcase at Wrestlemania. Sometimes being to the pre-show (Sheamus and Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 27), or even dropped at the last minute (Tons of Funk vs Sandown/Rhodes/Bellas Wrestlemania 29), all in favour for other priorities.
Rolling into WrestleMania 32, WWE are screaming for main event talent. Part timers have only got them so far, given the number of injuries right now. Out of the three main events announces, only Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns are born in the 80’s. The average age of the other stars is frightening 45 years old.
NXT has provided some promise of what to expect, however this hasn’t always translated to the main roster. WWE needs to take the chance with their under utilised talented roster. No doubt WrestleMania 32 will be a success, providing an entertaining show regardless of the stars. Lets hope WWE gives a chance for everyone to shine at the “Grandest Stage Of Them All”.