The journey to WrestleMania

WrestleMania is an amazing journey that began with the first WrestleMania in 1985 and continues 32 years later (although, it’s their 33rd anniversary if you ask the WWE).

The journey to the first WrestleMania began prior to 1985 when multiple events in the world of professional wrestling occurred leading to the creation of WrestleMania. In 1982, Vince McMahon purchased the WWF territory from his father. At the time, professional wrestling was divided into regional territories across North America under the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner. The NWA served as a governing body that shared talent across the territories. In 1963 Vince McMahon Sr. broke away from the NWA and ran his Northeast/New York territory independently.

After purchasing the WWF, McMahon had bigger plans for the territory. McMahon wanted to transform his regional territory into a national promotion. McMahon accomplished his goal by buying out smaller territories and securing a national television deal. By purchasing other territories, McMahon was able to acquire their regional television deals and run his WWF television shows in new markets. After buying out territories, McMahon was able to run more shows in more cities allowing him to generate more revenue.

In 1983, Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA promoted the first Starrcade on Thanksgiving Day. Starrcade was the ultimate professional wrestling card that featured the NWA’s biggest stars of the era and was broadcasted on pay-per-view’s predecessor close-circuited television. Starrcade was the predecessor to WrestleMania and without Starrcade, there may not be a WrestleMania.

The following year Vince McMahon purchased NWA territory Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW). McMahon was not really after the Georgia territory, but their Saturday 6:05 to 8:05 timeslot on TBS when they aired “World Championship Wrestling.” By purchasing GCW, McMahon controlled all professional wrestling on national cable television.

On July 14, 1984, McMahon appeared in what would later be known as “black Saturday.” McMahon appeared on TBS at 6:05 to announce the sale and switch in programming from GCW to WWF. One problem for McMahon, the product the WWF offered was significantly different than the product southern “rasslin” that GCW offered. Viewers rejected the WWF product and wrote into TBS protesting the change. Losing money on the deal, McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions for $1 million.

In 1985, McMahon bet every dollar he had, most of which was from the sale to Jim Crockett Promotions and promoted the first WrestleMania. McMahon combined wrestling with pop culture celebrities to help sell WrestleMania. Featured on the WrestleMania card were celebrities Liberace, Billy Martin, Muhamad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and wrestling in the main event, Mr. T. Had the event failed, McMahon and the then WWF would have gone bankrupt. The event proved to be the most successful closed circuited television event to date. More than one million people watch making it a financial success.

32 years later WrestleMania remains the ultimate event in the WWE year. The method of transmission has changed from closed-circuit television to pay-per-view to the WWE Network. The wrestlers have changed over the years but the man behind the event has not. Now 71-year old McMahon is promoting his 33rd WrestleMania card. As McMahon always says, he is just trying to outperform the previous WrestleMania.

 

WrestleMania highlights

  1. Hugh Hogan and Mr. T defeat Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in the first main event
  2. WrestleMania II takes place from three separate venues. Nassau Coliseum (Uniondale, New York), Rosemont Horizon (Chicago) and Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Hogan defends King Kong Bundy in a steel cage in the main event.
  3. Hogan body slams Andre the Giant to retain the WWF championship, but Ricky Steamboat defeats Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship (IC) in a match that steals the show.
  4. The first of back to back WrestleMania’s promoted from Donal Trump’s Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. Savage defeats the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase to win the vacant WWF Championship in a tournament.
  5. “The Mega Powers Explode.” A match a year in the making, Savage loses his title to Hogan in the main event.
  6. The SkyDome main event featured IC champion the Ultimate Warrior pinning Hogan for the WWF championship.
  7. Hogan defeats Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF championship. Again Savage steals the show in defeat as he loses a retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior. The Undertaker debuts defeating Jimmy Snuka.
  8. Plans for a match between Hogan and former NWA champion Ric Flair fall apart. Instead, Hogan defeats Sid Justice in the main event while Savage defeats Flair for the WWF title and Bret Hart defeats Piper for the IC title.
  9. Yokozuna defeats Hart for the WWF championship. However, Yokozuna is immediately challenged by Hogan, who had lost a tag match earlier in the card. Hogan defeats Yokozuna in 22 seconds for the title.
  10. Hart defeats Yokozuna for the championship, but his match is overshadowed by his own match against his brother Owen to open the card and Razor Ramon defeating Shawn Michaels in a ladder match for the IC title.
  11. Diesel defeats Michaels for the WWF title and in the main event, NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow.
  12. Michaels defeats Hart in overtime of their 60-minute ironman match 1-0, to win his first WWF championship. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H make their debuts their WrestleMania debuts. Austin defeats Savio Vega, but Triple H is squashed by the Ultimate Warrior in 99 seconds.
  13. The Undertaker defeats Sycho Sid for the WWF championship in the main event, bringing his undefeated streak to 6-0. Hart defeats Austin in the match of the night as a bloody Austin passes out in a submission match while in the sharpshooter. A rare double turn in professional wrestling. Austin entered the heel (bad guy) and left the baby face. The Rock makes his Mania debut, retaining the IC title in a match against The Sultan (Rikishi).
  14. Austin pins Michaels, with the help of a fast count from special outside enforcer Mike Tyson to capture his first WWF championship.
  15. Austin defeats The Rock for the WWF championship in the first of their WrestleMania trilogy.
  16. Triple H retains the WWF championship in the main event of a four corners elimination match defeating The Rock, The Big Show and Mick Foley. The show is stolen by Edge and Christian winning a three-way ladder match for the tag titles against The Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz.
  17. In arguably the greatest WrestleMania of them all, Austin alligns with former enemy Vince McMahon and beats The Rock for the WWF championship. Edge and Christian defeat The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz in an unbelievable Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. Vince McMahon loses a match to his son Shane.
  18. Mania returns to SkyDome where the Triple H defeats Chris Jericho in the main event for the WWF championship. The main event is a complete afterthought after the Toronto crowd goes crazy for The Rock defeating Hogan.
  19. Brock Lesnar defeats Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship in the main event. Michaels and Jericho steal the show and The Rock finally defeating Austin at WrestleMania in Austin’s final match. Also on the card was a match between Hogan and McMahon.
  20. Chris Benoit defeats Michaels and Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Eddie Guerrero retains the WWE title against Kurt Angle and John Cena debuts at Mania winning the United States championship from the Big Show.
  21. Batista defeats Triple H in the main event for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cena captures his first WWE championship over JBL and Michaels steals the show again in a losing effort to Kurt Angle. Edge wins the first Money in the Bank ladder match.
  22. Cena submitted Triple H in the main event to retain his title. Edge defeats Foley in a hardcore match, Michaels defeats McMahon and Rey Mysterio captures the World Heavyweight Championship.
  23. Cena submits Michaels in the main event, while The Undertaker wins the World Heavyweight Championship and improves his undefeated streak to 15-0 against Batista. The other notable match on the card features a hair vs. hair match between Trump and McMahon. In the middle of the match Trump tackles McMahon in a “hostile takeover,” and his representative Bobby Lashley defeats Umaga. Trump shaves McMahon’s head but is given the Stone Cold Stunner afterward by guest referee Steve Austin.
  24. The Undertaker submits Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Michaels defeats Flair in a retirement match and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeats the Big Show
  25. Triple H defeats Randy Orton in the main event, but the show is again stolen by Michaels who loses to the Undertaker. Also on the card was a match between Jericho and Wrestlemania 1 competitors Steamboat, Piper, and Snuka. After the match, Jericho is knocked out by The Wrestler actor Mickey Rourke
  26. In the main event, Michaels wagers his career against the Undertaker’s undefeated streak. For the second straight year, Undertaker defeats Michaels in a match of the year performance. So far, Michaels has honoured his retirement stipulation, which usually never happens in pro wrestling, see Funk, Terry.
  27. The Miz retains his WWE Championship against John Cena with help from The Rock. Edge wins his final career match against Alberta Del Rio but is forced to retire because of a neck injury following the event. The Undertaker has another fantastic match defeating Triple H.
  28. The Rock defeats John Cena in the main event. CM Punk retains the title against Jericho and The Undertaker again delivers against Triple H with Michaels as the special referee inside Hell in a Cell.
  29. In a rematch of the WrestleMania 28 main event, Cena defeats The Rock for the WWE championship. The Undertaker defeats CM Punk in the match of the night, bringing his streak to 21-0.
  30. After being defeated in 18 seconds in the opening match of WrestleMania 28, Daniel Bryan rides the unbelievable crowd support and the YES chant to the WWE championship. In the opening match, Bryan defeats Triple H to get into the main event, where he beats Orton and Batista for the WWE Championship. In the most shocking moment in WrestleMania history, Lesnar defeats The Undertaker, leaving the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd in stunned silence.
  31. After losing earlier in the night, Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract in the main event defeating Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship.
  32. More than 100,000 people attend at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. However, the main event victory falls flat as fans reject new champions Reigns after he defeats Triple H in the longest WrestleMania in history. Charlotte Flair steals the show with her Women’s Championship win against Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks.

 

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Over the Top Rope: The Royal Rumble

In the world of professional wrestling there is no more anticipated match each year than the Royal Rumble. Sure the main event of Wrestlemania maybe more prestigious, but most years the main event isn’t established until after someone wins the Rumble. The Royal Rumble represents the one match guaranteed each year, that generates interest from even the most casual fan.

The beauty of the Rumble is its simplistic nature. First proposed in the late 1980s by legendary French Canadian wrestler Pat Patterson as an alternative version of the traditional battle royal. Since the first Rumble hosted in Hamilton, Ontario in 1988 and won by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the Rumble has been a yearly event on the WWE calendar.

The Rumble starts like nearly every other match, two men in the ring. The big difference, pin fall or submission do not win you the match. Instead you have to throw your opposition over the top rope and on to the floor where both feet must hit the floor. However, there is another catch, every two minutes another competitor enter the match.

Unknown to Patterson at the time, but he invented the perfect match for the short attention span, ADD audience. Every two minutes, entrance music plays and the crowd reacts. The wrestling business is based upon two things, selling matches and generating crowd interest that creates a reaction. The Rumble does both, as it represents the second biggest show for the WWE.

In total, 30 men, (and sometimes women,) enter the Rumble. Every year the Rumble has its own surprise entry. Often a legendary superstars from the past return to make an appearance. The crowd goes wild as they hear the theme music of a superstar they haven’t heard from in years. A few minutes later, the surprise entry is thrown over the top rope and eliminated.

Over the next hour give or take a few minutes, viewers eyes are glued to the screen. Wrestlers leave it all on the line, looking to create that one memorable moment that stands the test of time. For the past few Rumbles it has been the acrobatic near eliminations of Kofi Kingston. Although Kingston, has never won the Rumble his ability to avoid elimination has led to some memorable moments. For Kingston, the moment lives on for years, but his time in the Rumble usually comes to an end mere minutes later.

When the 29th man is eliminated, the last man in the ring is crowned the winner. Since 1993, the winner has been guaranteed a main event title shot at that year’s Wrestlemania. While for many of the competitors in the match, there storyline and angles are created as they seek revenge on the opponent who eliminated them.

However, this year is not like the every Rumble since 1993. For the first time since 1992 the winner of the Rumble will be crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In 1992, Nature Boy Ric Flair entered third and was in the ring over an hour to win the vacated the then WWF title. The title was vacated after two “controversial” title changes involving Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, which saw the title change hands thanks to some interference from Flair.

In this year’s edition, Roman Reigns enters the champion, but after some feuding with WWE owner Vince McMahon, his daughter Stephanie and son in law Triple H, will be forced to defend the title at the Rumble. Adding to the interest this year is how depilated the WWE roster is due to the injuries of main stars and former champions.

Seth Rollins, was the champion for most of 2015, until he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in Ireland and was forced to vacate the title. The two biggest stars of the past decade, John Cena and Randy Orton are both out recovering from shoulder surgery. Former champion Daniel Bryan is out as he still needs to be medically cleared from a doctors following a concussion. Former tag team champions Tyson Kidd and Cesaro are both out after Kidd broke his neck and Cesaro underwent shoulder surgery. Former Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett continues to be out with a neck injury.

The Royal Rumble is usually strategically positioned by the WWE during the bye week in-between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. However, the 2016 edition takes place in Orlando on January 24 directly against the NFL playoffs. As injured as the WWE roster is, the list of potential winners is shorter than you might think.

Reigns enters champion and very well could leave the champion. In his two Rumble entries, Reigns has finished the runner up in 2014 and the winner in 2015, eliminating a record 12 in 2014.

Option two is former champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar won the Rumble in 2003, and could very well run the table as he uses his incredible size and athletic ability to throw everyone else out of the ring.

Option three is on-screen COO Triple H. The real life husband of Stephanie McMahon and WWE corporate executive spent the late 1990s and 2000s as one of the company’s top stars. However, over the past few years, he has spent his time behind the scenes developing talent. On-screen he is the hate authority figure that continues to hold back wrestlers he deems unworthy. A Triple H win would mark his second Rumble win, previously winning in 2002, would set up a Wrestlemania matchup with Reigns for the title.

The three represent the three betting favourites and yes, you can bet on pro wrestling. Other wrestlers who could win include Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. Ambrose and Owens are also scheduled to meet in a last man standing match for the Intercontinental Title.

If you are feeling like making a wager you can bet on everyone from the muscular 70 year old Chairman and 1999 Rumble winner Vince McMahon, or his two children Shane and Stephanie all three paying 100 to 1. You can even bet on Ronda Rousey at 50 to 1, following her appearance at Wrestlemania 31 and defeat at the hands of Holly Holm.

In many ways the Rumble is foolproof. Many college basketball experts call the March Madness Tournament a foolproof system. The Rumble is similar in many fashions with its dark horses making runs and underdogs eliminating favourites. However, over the past two Rumbles, fans have left disappointed with the winner, but still entertained. This year, the wildcard element is sure to leave fans intrigued on the road to Wrestlemania.