Craig Wilson, Brian Damage
The rise to stardom of many of wrestling’s top stars can be pinpointed to one specific moment. Whether it was a promo or a match that showed they were ready to hang with the main eventers, these are some of the most memorable moments in wrestling and the focus of this latest Top Five.
5. Diesel at Royal Rumble 1994
In the last few years Roman Reigns has received a hell of a push from the WWE including a strong showing at the 2014 Royal Rumble and his win at this year’s. However, his performance in the 2014 event mirrored that of Diesel some 20 years earlier. After that showing he went from Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard to a guy that looked worthy of a main event run.
You could maybe argue that Hart was merely in the right place at the right time for a push but, regardless, he showed everyone watching in this match that he was more than ready for a shot in the main event picture. Stories vary over the condition of the Bulldog in this one but even still, this is still one of the best matches of the Bulldog’s career and those in the back would have known exactly why.
3. Sting at Clash of the Champions 1
There is every chance that Sting would have become the star he became regardless but this match cemented his place in NWA history as he took Ric Flair to a 45 minute draw. I confess, I hadn’t seen this match in full until I got the WWE Network. This match alone has made my subscription worthwhile.
2. HBK ladder match at Wrestlemania X
Another former tag wrestler than benefited from a ladder match… At the start of the 90s, Michaels was one half of the popular Rockers tag team but just six years later he climbed to the top of the WWF mountain winning the 60-minute Iron Man Match with Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XII. Numerous events played their part in him breaking out as a singles star whether it was turning Marty Jannetty or adopting the brash ‘Heartbreak Kid’ gimmick. He’d go on to wrestle more stellar matches than we have time to mention but one definitely stands out: the ladder match at Wrestlemania X against Razor Ramon.
1. Austin 3:16 promo
Stone Cold was always going to make this list either this moment or his Wrestlemania 13 match but I’m opting for the King of the Ring win and the subsequent promo as it really put him on the map. A guy saddled with a rubbish gimmick and looking to be going nowhere until he won King of the Ring – and he only actually won it cause Triple H was in the dog house and no longer booked to win it. It’s fair to say that Austin took the ball and ran with it. Even now, that 3:16 promo is still wonderful.
5. Randy Orton (Backlash 2004)
Randy Orton’s hardcore match against Mick Foley at Backlash 2004 solidified Orton’s place as a main event hand. A super stiff match that saw Orton take a bump on to a pile of thumb tacks that made people see that Orton was a future main event star.
4. Mick Foley (King of the Ring 1998)
For years, Mick Foley was always considered a niche type of wrestler. When he took that bump off the top of the Hell in the Cell cage risking life and limb for the sole purpose to entertain…he gained so much respect in the locker room. It may have shortened his career…but it also shot him straight to the WWE title.
Before this match against the Sandman in 1994…fans actually hated the goody two shoes persona of Tommy Dreamer. Once he took the beating he took with some truly wicked, stiff cane shots and blood dripping from Dreamer’s back..asking for more…it gave Dreamer instant Hardcore street cred. Before you knew it…Dreamer became the heart and soul of ECW.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Wrestlemania 13)
Yes, Austin became popular right after his Austin 3:16 speech at the King of the Ring pay per view in 1996. It wasn’t until he faced Bret Hart in a submissions match at Wrestlemania 13 that his character took off into the stratosphere. With blood pouring from his head and passing out instead of submitting in Hart’s sharp shooter…it turned Austin babyface and his popularity and respect exploded from there.
1. Sting (Clash of the Champions 1)
Sting was definitely on pace to be a true star for the NWA prior to his match at the very first Clash of the Champions in 1988. It was that match, however, when he took NWA world champion Ric Flair to a 45 minute time limit where it showed fans and critics…that he belonged as a main event star.
5. Diesel at the 1994 Royal Rumble
Prior to the ’94 Royal Rumble Diesel was Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard, and that was about it. He then entered the Rumble, eliminated seven guys in a row and looked awesome while doing it. By the end of the year Diesel had become and Intercontinental, Tag Team and WWE Champion. I rest my case.
4. Edge at Wrestlemania 22
Edge was the first person to ever cash-in a ‘Money in the Bank’ contract. He did so on John Cena, who regained the title a few weeks later. A red-hot Edge was then knocked down the pecking order again, to make room for a Cena/Triple H feud. Thus, Edge and Mick Foley took it upon themselves to have the best match of the night at Wrestlemania 22. Granted Edge was almost ‘there’, but his performances with and against Foley started a wave of momentum that WWE could no longer ignore.
Sting took Flair to a time limit draw in 1988, when I was three years old. Yet I was still hearing about this match when I got into wrestling some four or five years later. Not only did this match put Sting on the map, it sparked one of the most storied rivalries in wrestling history.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13
Austin put himself on the map at the 1996 King of the Ring, but for me he secured a permanent spot in the main event picture during his fantastic double turn, submission match with Bret Hart. The image of him in the Sharpshooter is rightly etched into professional wrestling folklore.
1. CM Punk’s Pipebomb
Okay, so Punk had headlined PPVs and held the World Heavyweight Championship prior to June 6th 2011. However, we all know that holding a title and appearing in main events does not necessarily make you ‘a player’ in WWE – remember when The Miz was WWE Champion?! With his infamous promo, CM Punk not only broke the fourth wall but he shattered the so-called glass ceiling. Subsequently Punk went on to get as close to John Cena as any full-time performer ever has, which is about as good as you can do in WWE these days.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.