We're on the cusp of a new decade, and the WWE still seems like it might live up to its tagline "Then, Now, and Forever." The brand has been the dominant name in pro wrestling for decades now (despite the rise of competitors throughout the years), and while the sport itself is arguably about as strong as its ever been, there may be many who feel the brand used to be better about the entertainment in the olden days.
For that reason, I decided to take a trip back through recent decades of WWE history in order to celebrate some of the uniquely entertaining moments from bygone eras that likely would never happen in today's version. To note, we're considering the "modern" era of WWE to have set in when guys like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin stopped making frequent appearances. With that in mind, let's step into the ring.
Hulk Hogan Slamming Andre The Giant At WrestleMania III
Hulk Hogan's career is filled with many iconic moments, but few are as talked about or as noteworthy as his match with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III. In the final moments of the bout, the crowd erupted when the Hulkster picked up the massive Andre and slammed him into the mat. Hulk performed the impossible, and the crowd got even noisier as he hit the leg drop that put Andre down for the three-count.
By modern WWE standards, Hulk Hogan body-slamming Andre the Giant is fairly simplistic. Far more purposefully insane things have gone down over the years, but I think that's precisely what makes this moment so magical. It's essentially a big, strong dude lifting a truly gigantic man, with the crowd going ballistic over the feat of physical strength. It's a great example of how the business used to be much simpler and more streamlined, and that audience expectations may have been much lower than what they're grown to be.
Kane Making His WWE Debut
There are few wrestlers that have earned as much respect in the business as The Undertaker. The tombstone-loving "Dead Man" was a WWE staple for years without much of a detailed backstory, but a new chapter was unveiled in the mid-to-late 90s. After the 'Taker's falling out with manager Paul Bearer, a dark secret was unveiled about the wrestler's past: Undertaker had burned down his parent's funeral home as a child and killed his parents(!!!), and Paul Bearer had proof.
That proof was revealed at the hilariously titled PPV Badd Blood: In Your House 1997, during Undertaker's Hell In A Cell Match against Shawn Michaels, when Paul Bearer unexpectedly appeared alongside a fearsome-looking giant covered from head to toe in red and black. That beast was Undertaker's half-brother Kane, and with his arrival – and him jaw-droppingly putting Undertaker in his own finishing movie, the Tombstone Piledriver – another legend was born. Kane remains a legend in the WWE to this day – and a large part of it is thanks to that incredibly bonkers and one-of-a-kind debut.
D-Generation X Invading A WCW Event
The WWE has waged battles against rival wrestling organizations in the past, but none were as heated or crazy as the "Monday Night Wars" with WCW. The ratings competition between Raw and Nitro led to quite a few crazy moments for both promotions, though the politically incorrect D-Generation X's invasion of a WCW event was the epitome of WTF madness. In a taped segment, Triple H and the rest of the DX crew secured a tank and hung around outside the WCW's Virginia venue, being total nuisances as fans waited to get inside.
D-Generation X's tomfoolery included asking fans about "free tickets" they were given to fill seats and barking over a megaphone that Monday Night Raw was the superior show. They even attempted to gain entry into the arena to make it onto the live show, and though that final part wasn't successful, the fans loved it. Considering the WCW was known to dump WWE championship belts in waste baskets, as well as revealing the results of pre-taped WWE telecasts, the rival company didn't really have a leg to stand on in calling DX's move classless. It was a war!
The Big Boss Man Stealing The Casket Of Big Show's Father
Perhaps this wouldn't be found in a list of the greatest wrestling moments of all time, but these oddball antics are a fantastic sign of proof that the Attitude Era was so great. To set the scene: the Big Show was mourning the loss of his father along with his family, when Big Boss Man showed up on the scene with a hearse. After a brief confrontation, Big Boss Man knocked Big Show to the ground and drove off with the casket bouncing around behind the car. Big Show jumped on the casket, but ultimately fell off.
It's easily one of the most outlandish examples of the Attitude Era's anything-goes mentality. The bit did garner some spectator controversy, considering Big Show's actual father had died a few years before. (Wouldn't that have also been uncomfortable for the wrestler to revisit?) The WWE has since steered away from doing quite as many over-the-top angles on this level, though we still see a fair few. After all, Bray Wyatt is practically Pee-Wee Herman mixed with Michael Myers.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs. Bret Hart At WrestleMania XIII
Two wrestlers met up for a submission match for the ages back in 1997. One was a rising star with a hellacious mean streak, while the other was a legendary babyface who never went low. Amazingly, Bret Hart wound up crossing that line during WrestleMania XIII and officially became a villainous heel by destroying Stone Cold Steve Austin in the latter half of their match, causing him to bleed. Like, a lot.
By the end of the match, the WrestleMania crowd was heavily booing Hart, and cheering on the previously villainous Austin. The latter had "passed out" from the pain, as opposed to saying "I quit," and Hart temporarily duked it out with guest referee, UFC legend Ken Shamrock. After the match, Stone Cold Steve Austin's popularity continued to skyrocket, and to this day he remains one of the most popular names synonymous with WWE, with the match itself also entering pro wrestling infamy.
The Marriage Of Macho Man And Miss Elizabeth
Not all great wrestling moments are violent and blood-filled, of course. Macho Man Randy Savage's televised marriage with Miss Elizabeth is proof of that. The two had actually been married for years before their Summerslam 1991 nuptials, but though the wedding was fake, it remains one of those moments that showed wrestling could be heart-warming and good. (The couple's marriage eventually went south, and they split, leading to Elizabeth Hulette's problematic relationship with Lex Luger, but that's a story for another time.)
And as heartwarming as the wedding was, it's not like outlandish wrestling antics were completely removed from the event. The couple opened up a wedding gift from Jake "The Snake" Roberts and – surprise, surprise! – there was a living snake inside. Macho Man then got jumped by Roberts and The Undertaker, and that's how you transition from a high-profile wedding right back to squared-circle shenanigans.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Drenches "The Corporation" With A Beer Truck
On a short list of the greatest feuds of WWE, few are as memorable for wrestling fans as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. The blue collar man was taking shots at the corporate big wig, and fans loved to see McMahon get embarrassed by the feuds between the two. Every time it seemed McMahon got the upper hand, Stone Cold emerged stronger than ever and delivered some payback.
Such was the case in the iconic "beer truck" segment, in which Stone Cold drove a beer truck up to the edge of the ring and proceeded to drench The Corporation with a beer truck. The Rock and Shane took their licks from the hose, but the real star of the show was Vince McMahon. Vince flopped and flailed like a cartoon character tripping on a banana peel, and really sold the disgrace of the moment to a "t". Perhaps that's why it's remembered as one of Raw's most iconic moments to this day.
The Undertaker Throws Mankind Of The Top Of Hell In A Cell
Mick Foley was never the biggest, strongest, or most charismatic wrestler in the WWE, but few would dispute he had the most heart. Foley was notorious for doing what it took to put on a great match, and put his body on the line night in and night out, all in the name of entertainment. He has his battle scars to show for that, some of which came from one phenomenal match with The Undertaker.
The throw off the top of the cage (and onto the announcers table) was brutal enough, but it's the fact that Foley then decided to get off the gurney escorting him out of the arena and return to the match that makes this moment iconic. As luck would have it, he ended up getting spiked by Undertaker into the cage, which then had its zip ties break sending Mankind flat onto his back into the ring. That part, as the story goes, was not scripted into the match, but Foley soldiered on and completed his role in one of the most brutal matches in WWE history.
For those that still like to follow modern wrestling regardless of if they prefer the olden days, WWE now has shows on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays across NBC and USA. Check your local listings, and continue to stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest and greatest news happening in the world of movies and television.