The fact that the first WrestleMania was a success, as the event was a massive gamble for Vince McMahon, definitely counts. In 1985, few homes outside of the East Coast were wired for cable television, and the technology for pay-per-view barely existed; Vince did hedge his bets a little by also airing the event via closed circuit broadcast to venues across the US, but that was also an unproven technology, and one most felt would never work. The fact that Vince was able to go out, bet the farm on a pair of niche technologies, and make WrestleMania such a runaway success that pay-per-view would become the standard for big sporting events (particularly boxing and, later on, MMA) is a CMoA in and of itself.
The moment of awesome by which all moments of awesome in the Professional Wrestling universe are forever judged against: Hulk Hogan, at the zenith of his popularity, bodyslamming the then-550 pound Andre The Giant in front of a WWE-record 93,173 (reported) fans. So awesome, it works as the Crowning Moment for both Hogan and WrestleMania itself, and arguably as the Crowning Moment for the entire professional wrestling industry.
Also a moment for Andre, who, at the time, was struggling with intense pain due to the disease that caused his gigantism - to the point of having to wear a back brace; in the end, he still chose kayfabe and his work over his own needs. Vince McMahon even paid for Andre to have back surgery to alleviate his pain somewhat, just to help him compete in the match.
This is also a surprisingly good match, considering neither man was known for his sterling ring work; this is due to the lengthy planning that went into it.
Hogan gained the nickname "The Immortal" after he put the Warrior over further by handing him the belt after the match and embracing him in the center of the ring.
This match inspired two young fans, both of whom were Canadian, to pursue wrestling careers - Adam Copeland (Edge, who was in attendance) and Chris Irvine (Chris Jericho). Fellow Canadians William Jason Reso (Christian) and Lance Storm were also in attendance and went on to become pro wrestlers. It doesn't hurt that WrestleMania VI took place at the then-new SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre) in Toronto, and this would happen a second time with WrestleMania X8.
Bret Hart defeating Roddy Piper to win the Intercontinental Championship. This match was awesome for a couple of reasons. 1—Hart bladed during the match, something that wasn't allowed at the time, but he was able to make it look like an accident. 2—Piper effectively turned heel during the pre-match interview, turning face near the end of the match after deciding not to hit Bret with the ring bell after the referee had been knocked out, plus him helping Bret up after the match and putting the belt on him.
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair for the WWF Championship. A contender for match of the night (along with the aforementioned Hart/Piper match), this match also had blading (although Flair was much more blatant, resulting in him getting fined), and Savage (whose leg had taken a beating from the Figure-4) taking a page out of Flair's book to win (rolling him up and using the tights for leverage).
The Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart match is often considered the best opening match at a Wrestlemania ever and also proved Owen pretty much was going to be a great world champion one day had fate gone differently.
Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put the Ladder Match on the map with the one they had for the Intercontinental Championship. This match (and their Ladder Match at SummerSlam 1995) would set the standard for Ladder Matches for years to come. Shawn gets an extra one, as one reviewer put it, "It wasn't Shawn and Razor Ramon having a match with a ladder in the ring; it was Shawn Michaels having a match with a ladder with Razor Ramon in the ring."
The Iron Man Match between WWE Champion Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels - a sixty-minute affair that ended in a draw (neither man scored a fall), then went into overtime as officials declared that the match was now in "Sudden Death", and the first man to score a fall would win the title. A few minutes and a well timed superkick later, Shawn Michaels had fulfilled his "boyhood dream".
Stone Cold Steve Austin's first WrestleMania Crowning Moment Of Awesome came at the end of his Submission Match with Bret Hart, when - beaten and bruised, with his face turned into bloody hamburger - he was locked into Bret Hart's signature Sharpshooter. He kicked and crawled and yelled and screamed, but never gave up; instead, he passed out in a pool of his own blood, giving his last bit of energy to try and escape rather than admit defeat. He had a lot of really great moments before that, and many more after that, but that was the precise moment that everybody realized that Steve Austin was going to be huge. (And I mean everybody; I don't even think that the WWF's creative team realized just how well the whole thing was going to go off.)
This is made marginally more awesome by the fact that the iconic image of Austin trying to grab the ropes while a bloody mess wasn't supposed to happen. Both men have said in interviews that WWF bookers told them not to blade; the company was at a point where they simply didn't want wrestlers bleeding. In Hart's book, he says that he bladed Austin... and then told everyone that it was an accident when he threw Austin into the ringside steps.
The Undertaker also gained his second WWF championship against Sycho Sid, starting his first proper title reign, since his actual first one was very short lived. It was also nice to see him wrestle in his original attire for one more night, by this time he'd switched to his Lord of Darkness attire.
Sid reversing the Tombstone was quite impressive as well.
The Attitude Era becomes official as Stone Cold Steve Austin defeats Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. This is a Crowning Moment for both men: it marked Austin as being the biggest draw in pro wrestling, and it marked the end of Michaels' career for four years - he had worked the entire match with a bad back, one that had been injured for months and only got worse thanks to the match.
Sable and Marc Mero vs. Luna and Goldust was one of the first good performances of women at WrestleMania, especially when Sable delivers the TKO to Luna.
The Undertaker vs. Kane. It was their first encounter of many, and the culmination of almost a year-long storyline. Kane survived two tombstones before going down for the count with a third, which was unheard of back then. He managed to kick out just after the three count, further proving what a beast he is.
Edge and Christian beat The Dudley Boys and theHardys in a triangle ladder match for the Tag Team Championship in a match that will become the genesis for the TLC match a few months later at Summerslam.
WrestleMania 17 is widely considered by many to be the best wrestling pay-per-view ever held; coming off the heels of the death of ECW and WWF's purchase of rival promotion WCW, the show is considered to be the official end of the Attitude Era, and features just about every star made during that era, as well as the shocking ending of the show's main event, where Steve Austin turned heel and teamed up with longtime rival and WWF owner Vince McMahon to defeat The Rock and win the WWF Championship once again.
There's also TLC II, the second Tables Ladders and Chairs Match between the Hardys, the Dudleys, and Edge & Christian; each team got a little help from a third party (Lita, Spike Dudley, and Rhino, respectively), and there were several memorable moments, including the insane mid-air Spear that Edge delivered to a dangling-from-the-belts Jeff Hardy.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H would have been a memorable main event at any normal pay-per-view, but because of WM 17's Austin/Rock main event, this is one of WrestleMania's overlooked gems.
WrestleMania 17 also featured an outstanding opening between Chris Jericho and William Regal, a fun hardcore match between Kane, The Big Show, and Raven, another outstanding technical match between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, a solid match between Eddie Guerrero and Test, a solid 6-man tag team match that the crowd was hot involving the APA (Faarooq and Bradshaw and Tazz against Right to Censor (the latters last PPV match as a stable), and a highly entertaining battle royal with a slew of retired greats, not to mention the street fight between Vince and Shane with Mick Foley reffing. Nearly every match delivered, and then some.
But specifically, Linda McMahon standing from her wheelchair (she was playing as she was catatonic after a nervous breakdown) and kicked Vince in his grapefruits.
Or one offhand comment by Jim Ross, "The Undertaker has never lost at Wrestlemania''. And with this, The Streak is now officially born.
This had actually been mentioned by Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania 11 as well, though nobody made a big deal of it yet.
The Rock's match against "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan. Not only was this a dream match (and one of the last "dream matches" that can truly live up to that billing), but the crowd was so into the match that they cheered then-heel Hogan and rooted for him to win, something that not even WWE expected to happen. In fact, because of this reaction, Hogan was quickly moved out of the nWo and turned face.
This turned out to be a minor Crowning Moment of Awesome for the Rock, as he decided not to fight it, and basically turned heel in mid match, and then turned back once the match was over.
The Hardcore championship changing hands from Maven, Spike Dudley, The Hurricane, Mighty Molly, Christian and back to Maven was a Crowning Moment Of Funny.
Trish Stratus won one of the best women's matches of all time, and bagged her fourth Women's title to boot.
Shawn Michaels made his WrestleMania return (with an awesome entrance) in a fantastic match with Chris Jericho.
Hulk Hogan went up against Vince McMahon in a Street Fight which saw one of the commentators getting hit with a chair, Vince leg dropping Hogan off a twenty-foot ladder, and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper returning to clock both men with a lead pipe.
The Rock and Stone Cold faced each other for the third and last time at WrestleMania, in what turned out to be Austin's last match. The awesomeness of this match is elevated even higher with the knowledge that Austin nearly died the night before.
The final match of the night saw Brock Lesnar defeat Kurt Angle (with a broken neck) to win the WWE Championship. One of the final spots in the match saw Lesnar climb up to the top rope and attempt a Shooting Star Press (a move that the Hulk-like Lesnar hadn't done since his days in OVW); he overshot his dive and ended up concussing himself (and very nearly breaking his neck), but he won the match anyway. Afterwards, he shook hands with Kurt Angle and hugged him in the ring to cap off Angle's face turn.
The WWE Championship match. A month prior at No Way Out, Eddie Guerrero won the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar and would face Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania with Kurt often lambasting Eddie in the weeks prior for his former drug and alcohol addictions and felt he didn't deserve to be champ. The match itself was spectacular as the two performers really utilized their mat skills for a truly technical match. Towards the end, Eddie untied one of his boots and then faked a limp. Angle, catching the limp, immediately went for his signature ankle lock. When he grabbed Eddie's boot, it came flying off and Eddie took advantage of the surprise by executing a roll-up on Kurt that won the match.
The Undertaker returning to WWE and bringing back his "Deadman" gimmick, led by Paul Bearer and the druids, to wreak his revenge on Kane. Kane couldn't believe it. "I KILLED YOU! I BURIED YOU ALIVE! YOU ARE NOT REAL!" Also marked the end of his "American Badass" era.
The show's main event. The story going into WrestleMania was that Chris Benoit was in a Triple Threat match with Shawn Michaels and Triple H (the reigning World Heavyweight Champion), and the Smarks believed that Benoit stood only a small chance of winning. After one of the best WrestleMania matches ever, Benoit made Triple H tap cleanly to the Crippler Crossface in the middle of the ring to finally win a world title (in Madison Square Garden on the twentieth anniversary of the Showcase of the Immortals, no less), and then-WWE Champion (and close friend) Eddie Guerrero came out to celebrate with him, and the two friends hugged, in the center of Madison Square Garden, while openly weeping, creating one of the most iconic images in WrestleMania history. Thanks to the Benoit double-murder suicide and its Canon Discontinuity, as well as Eddie's death, the image has since become ratherheartbreaking.
The Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar match is rightfully considered terrible. However, an awesome moment was had by two fans in the audience who showed up dressed as Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. The two spent the entire match cutting promos on each other and mocking the in-ring action in full view of the cameras. They got so much positive reaction from the surrounding crowd that security stepped in to tell them that while they personally thought they were hilarious, Vince McMahon said to knock it off.
Shawn Michaels turned in another "Mr. WrestleMania" performance by taking Kurt Angle to the limit.
Two of the biggest stars of the next five years of WWE history, Batista and John Cena, both won their first world titles on this night (Batista won the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Triple H, and Cena won the WWE Championship by dethroning John "Bradshaw" Layfield - who had held the title for nine months, the longest reign for that title in years).
After months in the World Title hunt, and many displays of anger and paranoia, Edge in the middle of his first main event push, wins the first Money in the Bank Ladder match and a World Title opportunity anytime he wants.
Shawn Michaels facing his boss, Vince McMahon. Vince had done just about everything to undermine Shawn's born-again pacifist attitude and had gone out of his way to make Shawn look bad on numerous occasions. But on this night, it was a No Disqualification Match that was their final showdown. Shawn winds up beating up five different hired guns at the same time, humiliates Vince's son Shane in a fashion that I can't even describe here for fear of setting off Slash Fic everywhere, then warps a chair on Vince's head. Three minutes of solid beating later, Shawn threatens to find an 8-foot (standard-size) ladder so he can leap off the top step and crush Vince. He changes his mind at the last second... and about two minutes later, he's leaping off of a 12-foot ladder onto a prone, semi-conscious, trashcan-over-the-head-wearing Vince, crushing the table beneath him at the same time. Then when paramedics show up, he threatens to attack them as well should they try to help Vince. Why? Because he hasn't pinned Vince yet, so the match isn't over. Oh, and Shane has been handcuffed to the ropes at ringside, so he was unable to do anything to stop it. To say this led to a career resurgence for Shawn Michaels would be putting it very lightly.
Edge spearing Mick Foleyoff the ring apron and through a flaming table, capping off what some think is the best Hardcore Match in WWE history.
And before that moment, we had Foley wrapping "Mr. Socko" in barbed wire and using it as a weapon. When Foley brought out Socko, Joey Styles said, "It may not be hardcore, but it's effective." Decorated in its newfound barbed wire attire, however, Styles noted that, "Now it's hardcore!"
WrestleMania 22 had a bloody knockdown drag out fight between HBK and Vince McMahon which would eventually spawn the D-X reunion. Also, Edge speared Mick Foley through a flaming table and gave Mick his WrestleMania moment; the fans in Chicago turned Trish Stratus heel and the psycho lesbian Mickie James babyface, in a match which included James grabbing Stratus' crotch and licking her fingers afterwards. Sadly, the move was edited off the DVD of the show.
ECW got its very own WrestleMania Moment at WrestleMania 23, when ECW "originals" Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, The Sandman and Rob Van Dam defeated The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker and Kevin Thorn) in the only match on the card for the ECW brand. (ECW Champion Bobby Lashley also met Intercontinental Champion Umaga in a non-title match).
The Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga match was okay, but it principally proved once more that Vince McMahon would do anything for a storyline, this time getting shaved bald. He's a billionaire and synonymous with the industry, and he's probably in the top 10 (if not number one) in the amount of ridiculous punishment he's taken for the business.
Both Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair deserve a CMOA for their match, in which Ric Flair would be forced to retire if he lost (which he did *
And Shawn deserves an extra one for one simple line from that match that could only be seen, not heard: "I'm sorry. I love you."
The Batista vs. Umaga match was slow and plodding. The few fans cheering were Umaga fans. He was clearly happy with that.
CM Punk being the unlikely winner of the Money in the Bank match, in what must have surely pleased his legions of internet fans that had followed his career from the indy circuit all the way to WWE. Considering he won over a returning Chris Jericho and a pair of up-and-coming heels in John Morrison and MVP, it's pretty impressive.
Edge vs Undertaker was pretty damn good too. Too bad the crowd was dead for the first half of it.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. Undertaker, who had never defeated Michaels in one-on-one competition, incremented his WrestleMania undefeated streak to 17-0 by beating Michaels one-on-one in what was easily the best match of the night; it was hard for anyone - especially the live crowd - to care about the two title matches that followed it.
The specific Crowning Moment of the match itself was when Undertaker dove over the ropes at Michaels... where Michaels shoved a cameraman in the way instead, resulting in a broken camera, a downed cameraman, and Undertaker practically killing himself with a head-first landing on the mat (and, from the initial camera angles, looking like he'd actually done so!). There were countless other great moments in the match, but that moment was when it became clear that this was shaping up to be an all-time classic.
The buildup was a chain of awesome moments for Shawn, playing the cocky as hell heel for that feud. Constantly outmatching Taker during promos and showing absolutely no fear when he showed up? That seemed to put even more on the line than just The Streak...
Other events that were most notable:
Ricky Steamboat coming out at 56 years old and proving he could still go in the Legends vs. Chris Jericho match, some 14 years after he'd suffered a career-ending back injury in his match against "Stunning" Steve Austin at WCW Clash of the Champions XXVIII on August 24, 1994.
This led to another moment the following month when Jericho and Ricky had at it in a singles match. The match at 'Mania was a 3-on-1 handicap match but the match at Backlash really gave Ricky the chance to shine.
John Cena lifting up over 700 pounds of humanity (The Big Show and Edge on his shoulders.
Kofi Kingston's work in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, including running up a closed ladder that Mark Henry was holding up.
Rey Mysterio's insanely awesome Joker-themed outfit, worn during his squash of JBL to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker II, the first time Undertaker has wrestled the same man at WrestleMania in consecutive years. As expected, the match stole the whole damn show; not only did they go for nearly a half-hour, they did so with Undertaker having injured his leg and barely able to put weight on it. The match itself was just brilliant, fall after fall, with every major move given the respect it deserves (with kickouts of both the Tombstone and Sweet Chin Music). Shawn's Asai moonsault into a prone Taker on the announcer's table is guaranteed to be one of those WrestleMania moments. And the finish might have topped Flair/Michaels for heartbreaking: Taker increases his record to 18-0, and (due to agreed-upon stipulations) Shawn's wrestling career was ended.
One of the best moments was at the end of the match: Michaels has just kicked out of a near-fall from a Tombstone Piledriver. Taker stands over Michaels, and begins to give his signature throat-cut taunt, signaling for another Tombstone... but then he stops midway, and we are treated to the visual of Shawn literally clawing his way back up to his feet by grabbing onto Taker. Both men look at each other, utterly exhausted, and Taker demands, pleads, almost begs for Shawn to "stay down". Michaels responds by doing the throat-cut himself and SLAPPING UNDERTAKER ACROSS THE FACE with his last ounce of strength, remaining defiant to his very end (almost like Flair, who - two years earlier - begged Shawn to pull the trigger and take him out). Taker retaliates by grabbing Michaels and executing a jumping Tombstone - a rather shocking feat considering that Taker's knees are known to be in rather bad shape - to put Shawn down for good.
Jack Swagger becoming Mr. Money in the Bank, despite no one giving him a chance in the match. He would then proceed to blow up the Internet two days later by cashing in the briefcase at the SmackDown tapings, becoming the new World Heavyweight Champion in the process. If anyone with an Internet connection made it to that Friday night without being spoiled, I salute them.
John Cena would further prove himself as a pretty awesome guy after regaining the WWE Championship from Batista. There happened to be a rather loud and vocal group of anti-Cena smarks in the front row near the ring. Most other wrestlers would simply ignore them, some heels possibly start insulting them for heat, that sort of thing; Cena, however, simply walked up to them, beaming with joy, and posed on-camera with his regained title alongside them. Like him as a wrestler or not, that is both hilarious and fantastically awesome.
He also did it a year earlier... with the very same fan right beside him both times.
Starting with WresleMania 22, John Cena would come out with styleized entrances, such as acting as a Mafia leader (WM22), or following an army of John Cenas ala Eminem's Real Slim Shady live performance (WM25). This year, however, saw an honorary drill team of the United States Air Force perform a complex drill lasting 90 seconds, with their team commander walking through the very real guns and bayonets thrice. After John Cena came out to a massive pop, Michael Cole could only give a shocked "WOW!", before explaining what was just seen.
Say what you will about the match, but Bret FINALLY giving Vince what he deserves after 12 long years is pretty awesome.
While most of the event was very lackluster, one match stood head and shoulders above the rest: Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Specifically, the moment where Triple H tombstoned Undertaker and then recoiled in sheer horror when Undertaker kicked out has to be seen to believed.
John Cena vs The Rock was expected to be this before it even happened, it was hoped to be as exciting to the fans as Rock/Hogan was at WM18. In fact the announcement itself was so big that they've announced the main event an entire YEAR before the show! And it didn't seem to disappoint.
One moment really stood out in that match and it was near the ending: As John Cena had The Rock laying down on the ground, he decided to become overconfident and cocky (possibly hinting on a heel turn) by trying to finish the match with the People's Elbow. This gave The Brahma Bull all the time he needed to recover in order to land the Rock Bottom, thus winning the match.
Triple H. The Undertaker. Hell in a Cell. Consider the fact that WM28 is in an outdoor venue, therefore marking the first time the Hell in a Cell match has taken place outdoors.
Right before the cage was lowered, Taker and HHH were having a staredown until they looked up at the cage. Right around that time, the smoke from Taker's entrance covered the ring just as the cage was being lowered. AWESOME.
The match itself delivered on all accounts and ended with 'Taker continuing his legendary streak to 20-and-0. Bonus points for the post-match bit, where Undertaker and Shawn Michaels*
Who was named the special referee for this encounter.
lift up a battered Triple H and carry him down the ramp, finally ending with the three men sharing an embrace for one hell of a Hell in a Cell match. To top it all off, this match won the 2012 Slammy Award for Match of the Year, decided by fan vote.
Kudos to Maria Menounos for competing with broken ribs and doing most of the work in her match, taking a lot of hits and bumps.
The Big Show finally gaining a proper WrestleMania moment by winning the IC title From Cody Rhodes after years of humiliation and jobbing during the Show of Shows, thus becoming the 12th Grand Slam Champion.
Even though he didn't win the awesome match against CM Punk, Chris Jericho still managed to get a moment of awesomeness: Countering a Hurricanrana into the Walls Of Jericho!
Rock/Cena, Punk/Jericho, and Triple H/Undertaker all living up to the hype.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker. Everything about it, starting with Living Colour performing Cult of Personality live.
One highlight of the match was Taker doing his signature sit-up while he was in Punk's Anaconda Vice. The audience pops like mad, and Punk freaks out.
Shawn Michaels isn't called "Mr. WrestleMania" for nothing; besides his show-stealing performances already mentioned above, other notable performances include the Ladder Match against Razor Ramon at WrestleMania 10, his match against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 19, and his match against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21.
Hell, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single WrestleMania match of his that wasn't good, going all the way back to his debut at WrestleMania 5 as part of The Rockers.
Another factor to add is even though he's retired he's still so much a staple to WrestleMania that they decided that even in retirement they still had him be Special Guest Referee to the Undertaker vs Triple H match and the next year be in Triple H's corner when he wrestled Brock Lesnar.