Earlier this week, 31 of the 32 NFL owners approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Awaiting Raiders owner Mark Davis's team in the desert come 2020 will be a 65,000-seat domed stadium, funded in part with $750 million in public money. It's a historic get for the city of Las Vegas, an NFL team in the mecca of sports gambling.
However, a stadium of this size also puts Las Vegas into the conversation for so many more big events. This was a huge topic on Monday as well. The other events bandied about included Final Fours (highly unlikely), College Football Playoff title games (again, unlikely), big boxing matches (a lock), UFC events (already in Vegas, but the really big fights, yes), concerts (yep) and...wait for it...WRESTLEMANIA.
That the WWE's annual showcase event is part of the "stadium-size event" circuit conversation shows just how incredibly the marketing power and growth of Vince McMahon's behemoth have evolved over time. In the mid-'90s, Wrestlemania was held in the Hartford Civic Center or Rosemont Horizon. In the last three years, it's been held in NFL stadiums, including more than 100,000 fans filling AT&T Stadium last year.
In short, Wrestlemania is now a fixture on the pop culture landscape. To wit, John Cena was cohosting the Today Show Tuesday morning while The New Day tag team was helping out on ESPN's SportsCenter. This Sunday, wrestling's "showcase of the immortals" returns to Orlando, site of Wrestlemania 24, as the WWE stages Wrestlemania 33. In celebration of the annual peak of wrestling's calendar, let's look back at one man's ten most memorable Wrestlemania matches...
10. Edge/Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz, Wrestlemania X-Seven
Historical Significance: On a card that included Rock-Austin, Undertaker-Triple H, Angle-Benoit and Vince-Shane, this three-way tag team title match stole the show, with not only some memorable high spots but actually a very logical story told by the match.
Fallout: All the guys in this match, 16 years later, are still alive and most are still performing, which is fairly remarkable. Edge is the only one who is fully retired, but he was by far the most successful over the subsequent decade, winning a version of the WWE title eleven times.
9. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan, Wrestlemania VI
Historical Significance: Three things here — first, the match was surprisingly watchable and well executed, especially considering Warrior was one of the participants. Second, this was the rare "babyface versus babyface" match, never before seen in a Mania main event. Finally, this is the first Mania that featured Hogan losing via pin fall.
Fallout: Warrior would hold the WWF title throughout the summer, but business would fall with Hogan gone to Hollywood. When Hogan returned later that year, he would be thrust right back into main events and eventually win the title back from Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII.
8. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton, Wrestlemania 30
Historical Significance: Bryan's title win was the culmination of a months-long storyline in which the fans basically willed management into giving him the strap. The "YES!" cheers were just too much to ignore.
Fallout: From about the time he won the heavyweight title, Bryan would be medically cursed, requiring neck surgery later in 2014, and eventually having to retire the following year after winning the Intercontinental title. Today Bryan is the storyline commissioner of the Smackdown brand.
7. Hulk Hogan/Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff/"Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Wrestlemania I
Historical Significance: This was the main event at the first ever Wrestlemania, and the involvement of Mr. T gave the company some heavy mainstream run. Actually, the entire year prior to this saw the WWF as a fixture on MTV with Cyndi Lauper's involvement. A huge success at the box office and on closed-circuit TV, the first Mania was essentially an all-in bet by Vince McMahon in which he watered the whole company.
Fallout: Hogan would go on to become the biggest star in the history of the business. Orndorff, who sustained the pinball in the main event, would get flipped over to a babyface, leading to a yearlong friendship with Hogan, before a gargantuan turn back to heel for him in summer 1986.
6. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (Ladder Match), Wrestlemania X
Historical Significance: This was the first real "high spot, high risk, acrobatic stunt" match in the history of Wrestlemania, a revolutionary bout at the time. This was the first in what would become a slew of legendary Mania matches for Michaels.
Fallout: Michaels would go on to become the face of the company from mid-1995 through late 1996. Ramon would leave two years later to become part of the biggest angle in the history of the business (New World Order) in WCW.
5. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Wrestlemania III
Historical Significance: The best match at what many still consider to be the most historically significant Wrestlemania of all time.
Fallout: Savage, a heel with massive heat in this match, would become the hottest babyface in the business just months later, and win the WWF title at the next year's Wrestlemania. Steamboat would lose the IC title to the Honky Tonk Man just two months later, and leave the company.
4. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, Wrestlemania 30
Historical Significance: Um, do we really need to cover this? This was the ONE in 23-1!
Fallout: Both guys are still fixtures atop the WWE pecking order, with Lesnar fighting Goldberg for the WWE Universal Title this weekend, and Undertaker fighting perennial "negative heat" magnet Roman Reigns.
3. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, Wrestlemania X8
Historical Significance: In Hogan's first Wrestlemania appearance since 1993, the crowd's reactions flipped the roles of both guys in this bout, and it ended with Hogan getting cheered endlessly in defeat.
Fallout: Hogan would get a 15-minute standing ovation the next night on RAW, and have a nice "Babe Ruth"-like run at the end of his in-ring career back in WWE. The Rock would go on to make $15 million per movie in Hollywood.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Wrestlemania 25
Historical Significance: Considered by many to be the greatest match in the history of Wrestlemania, this bout continued the Undertaker's undefeated streak to 17-0 at the time.
Fallout: The two would meet again at the following year's Mania, with Taker winning again to go to 18-0 at the WWE's biggest show of the year.
1. Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (Submission Match), Wrestlemania 13
Historical Significance: Where do we start? This "double turn," which would launch Austin on the hottest babyface run in the history of the business and turn Bret Hart into a unique flavor of heel (hated in the United States and beloved internationally), was essentially the inception point of the Attitude Era. Also, Ken Shamrock was the guest referee, which added another layer to the story.
Fallout: Bret Hart would eventually leave the company and head to WCW in the wake of the Montreal Screwjob seven months later, and Austin would become the hottest star on the deepest roster in the history of the business for the next four years. And it all started here. No big deal.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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