More WrestleMania analysis than you ever thought you needed.
WrestleMania is the signature event in the world of pro wrestling. There have been imitations, but Vince McMahon’s creation—which first entered his brain nearly four decades ago during a rare family vacation—has shared no peer for the past 34 years. As the buzz builds and the WWE prepares for WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, here are 34 notes, quotes, and anecdotes to take you on a journey of WrestleMania past, present, and future.
1). DANIEL BRYAN
Daniel Bryan returns to wrestle at WrestleMania 34, competing at his first ‘Mania match since an underrated ladder match to open WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, California.
Connections between Hulk Hogan and Daniel Bryan continue to exist. Although the two men look nothing alike, both capture the room as soon as they enter. In wrestling, Bryan owns the crowd in a way that most pure babyfaces have not been able to capture since Hulkamania.
In the early 1980s, Hogan was criticized by AWA owner Verne Gagne during the initial rumblings of Hulkamania because Gagne thought Hogan was too much of a bodybuilder to be a wrestling star. Decades later, Bryan was constantly knocked by Vince McMahon for not having the size to be the face of the company and that he relied far too much on his wrestling ability. Yet, in both cases, the reaction of crowds across North America told a different story.
“That connection between Hulk and I, it’s interesting,” said Bryan. “Wrestling evolves. It’s what the fans want, and what they want evolves. A lot of times you can’t predict what they want, and it just so happens, at one point, they wanted me–and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
2). “STONE COLD” STEVE AUSTIN
Steve Austin had his first “WrestleMania Moment” against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 in a submission match. The match featured an incredible double turn, which saw Hart enter the match as the babyface and Austin as the heel, with the roles were completely reversed by the end of the bloody affair.
“WrestleMania is the biggest stage you can be on as far as sports entertainment goes–though I still like to call it pro wrestling–but you want to knock it out of the park, grand slam style, for the fans,” said Austin.
Austin is also known for his three WrestleMania encounters with The Rock, which helped capture one of the greatest feuds in the history of WWE on its grandest stage.
“We just tore into each other,” said Austin. “Any time we stepped into the ring, good things were going to happen. That’s a testament to chemistry, mutual respect, and our desire to prove we’re the best. People were going to leave damn sure getting their money’s worth.”
3). HULK HOGAN
Hulk Hogan’s return to this year’s WrestleMania is still rumored, but if Hogan had his way, he would be back in a WWE ring for one more match.
“If I could go back and wrestle one guy, it would be Cena,” said Hogan. “That was the match that was supposed to happen in Orlando [at WrestleMania 24]. I’d had my second or third back surgery, and when I was on the phone talking to Vince, my back went out again. That is a match I’d have loved to do, but I’d still love to get in the ring one more time with The Rock again. That match was so electric.”
Hogan’s finest moment at the “Showcase of Immortals” took place in 1987, when he slammed Andre the Giant in the Pontiac Silverdome.
“There are a couple matches that I really love,” said Hogan. “There is WrestleMania I, which probably happened before [most current fans’ parents’] were born. “There’s The Rock match, which was really cool, but the one match that really set the table, the one match that etched the WWF in stone, the one match that built Titan Towers and set the whole company was the WrestleMania III match with Andre the Giant.
“That’s the match, brother. That was the match that made people realize this wrestling company, the WWE, was not going anywhere.”
4). PAT PATTERSON
The man who booked the Hogan-Andre match?
Patterson is also the man who first “won” the Intercontinental championship belt in a mythical tournament in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, developed the “Iron Man” match concept for Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12, and created many of the most memorable finishes in WWE history.
For years, Patterson booked WrestleMania poolside months before the event at the McMahon gazebo.
“We’d sit down all day long,” said Patterson. “Vince, me, and Bruce [Prichard]. You could get burned out after a while.”
Patterson also has a few ideas for who he would book to star at WrestleMania 34.
“I’m a big fan of Miz,” said Patterson. “He is really, really good.”
The Miz defends his IC title against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor in a triple-threat match this Sunday.
“You don’t always need a big guy or a monster to tear the house down,” said Patterson. “The Miz has the talent. He is one of a kind.”
5). SHAWN MICHAELS
“Mr. WrestleMania” has a far better ring to it than “Mr. 401K.”
The “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels–who is now 52–followed the advice of his father, who made sure that his son invested his money wisely.
“I’m horrible at keeping track of this, but I do own WWE stock,” said Michaels. “I’ve learned to stay in that stuff for the long term, so that’s what I do.”
[tile:Week in Wrestling: WrestleMania 34 News, Notes, Quotes and a Preview From Chris Jericho]
Michaels’ father, the late Richard Hickenbottom, was an officer in the United States Air Force. He never encountered the amount of money that his son earned in pro wrestling, so Michaels wisely let his father control his investments, which is a role that Michaels’ wife now handles.
“Everybody likes to say to my wife, ‘All you do is stay at home?’” said Michaels. “And she says, ‘Well, I home school two children and of course I take care of the enterprise that is my husband. But other than that? Yes, I am just a housewife.’ Believe me, I’m a lot to care of.
“Every WrestleMania, [the stock] seems to go up, and you think, ‘Should I sell now?’ But I’m here for the long haul. I know myself well enough and I’ll take what I need to live on, and let my wife and kids figure out the rest after I’m pushing up daisies.”
6). JOHN CENA
When asked to reflect on his 13 WrestleMania matches, John Cena chose an interesting one to discuss.
His WrestleMania 30 encounter with Bray Wyatt in New Orleans.
“Wherever we draw inspiration, that is what makes the beauty of creativity special,” said Cena. “A character like Bray Wyatt has gone through so many evolutions. With me, it was very different. I encompassed the commercialization of hip hop in the 90s and 2000s, and that’s how I got my jumpstart.”
Cena’s first ‘Mania was at Madison Square Garden, where he defeated the Big Show at WrestleMania XX. He felt a genuine connection with the crowd after his victory. A decade later, when he defeated Wyatt, what resonated most with Cena about the match was the way Wyatt connected with the crowd.
“Bray started as a close correlation to a DeNiro character,” said Cena. “His origins were kind of like, ‘I saw this on screen in Cape Fear, and I would kind of like to take traits from that and put it into what we do.’ It’s gone unbelievably expansive since then.”
7). “THE GENIUS” LANNY POFFO
The “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior battled in a retirement match at WrestleMania VII, which an extremely emotional affair that saw Miss Elizabeth return to Savage. WWE’s storytelling was at its finest, as Savage finally held open the ring ropes for Elizabeth on the way out of the ring, which was an indignity Savage had bestowed for years upon his better half.
Savage’s younger brother, “The Genius” Lanny Poffo, had fond memories of the encounter. His brother Randy was a perfectionist, and Poffo recalled the painstaking precision in which Savage prepared.
Poffo will be at WrestleCon this weekend in New Orleans with copies of his new comic book.
When asked to commemorate the retirement match between the two legends at WrestleMania VII, Poffo replied that he would prefer to share a poem about the main event of WrestleMania III between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (which was another night when Savage stole the show in his match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat).
Who was I to argue with The Genius?
Here is Poffo’s poem he wrote for the “Eighth Wonder of the World”:
ANDRE THE GIANT
In this world of wrestling giants
One man puts them all to shame
And he’s every bit as rugged
As the Alps from where he came
The French-born Andre Rousimoff’s
No stranger to our shore
But we call him Andre the Giant
‘Cause he’s every inch and more
And millions stand in line to see
God’s mightiest creation
Who’s been called the greatest athlete
Of any generation
But he’s never had a title shot
And we know very well
Hulk Hogan has a broken heart
And Andre’s mad as hell
What will be the Hulk’s reply
We’ll have to wait and see
‘til then we’re counting down the days
‘til WrestleMania III
8). “THE NATURE BOY” RIC FLAIR
Ric Flair’s first WrestleMania was in 1992 at the Hoosier Dome against the “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
But his first match with the company was originally scheduled to take place four years earlier against Savage at SummerSlam ‘88.
“It’s true, said Flair. “I was on my way to work for Vince and wrestle Savage at the Garden. My contract was up and Vince had been in touch with me, but I decided my best move was to remain in the NWA because I was so attached to my friends in the Four Horsemen. I thanked McMahon for the offer. I just couldn’t get myself to leave.”
Flair and Savage went on to have their match on an even grander stage at WrestleMania VIII.
“We brought the best out in each other,” said Flair. “When you have that kind of chemistry and that kind of respect for each other, it doesn’t take a lot of thought-process to go out there and make things happen.”
No matter the year, whether he is in the ring or backstage, Flair said he stills feel the rush and adrenaline at WrestleMania.
“Are you kidding?” said Flair. “It’s awesome. You want to be at your best, you’re nervous all day long. The day of my WrestleMania match with Shawn Michaels, I must have drank 20 cups of coffee just to kill the time, I was so excited and nervous. The day you’re not nervous, don’t go out there.”
9). SEAN MOONEY
Moments after Ric Flair lost the world title to Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII, Sean Mooney was backstage to interview Flair, Bobby Heenan, and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig.
“Just watching how the end of the match went, I knew it would be a very memorable interview,” said Mooney. “With those three, you never knew what they were going to do, but you knew it was going to be great.”
A lasting part of that interview remains the image of the bleach-blonde haired Flair stained with crimson blood.
“You didn’t see a lot of blood, so this was a very different moment following the mayhem in the ring,” said Mooney, who was working his final WrestleMania. “It was a very real moment in that locker room.”
Mooney, who hosts the Prime Time with Sean Mooney podcast, recalls wondering how Flair would respond to his questions.
“We had a lot of freedom back then, it wasn’t as structured or scripted,” said Mooney. “So I had an idea of what I was going to go with, and Ric was the image of intensity. It was a very real moment for him.”
10). COURT BAUER
Ric Flair retired ten years ago from WWE following his loss to Shawn Michaels in a “Career Threatening Match” at WrestleMania 24.
The original plans of Flair’s WWE retirement, however, were much different than what transpired on television.
Major League Wrestling CEO Court Bauer, who was once an integral part of the WWE creative team, recalled the original plan.
“Coming off WrestleMania 23, at the afterparty, Steve Austin had a conversation with Vince talking about Flair retiring,” said Bauer. “Steve said, ‘Vince, if you’re going to do it, make it a retirement tour. Have Ric go the entire year and only retire him once he’s finally beaten.’ And Vince loved the idea.”
McMahon then assigned a writer to the Flair retirement arc, but quickly grew frustrated and called Bauer’s name to oversee the story.
“I had the privilege of designing the Ric Flair retirement run,” said Bauer. “I mapped it out with the greatest hits. We still had the Great American Bash show, so we were going to have Flair do something there, and we had Ted DiBiase reach out to Sting.”
Sting had the opportunity to walk away from TNA in 2007, and DiBiase sent out feelers to see if he had a price to jump to WWE.
“DiBiase tried to recruit Sting,” said Bauer. “The plan was for a Survivor Series match with Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Ricky Steamboat, and maybe even Mick Foley against a version of the Four Horsemen. At that point, it was looking like Flair, Dean Malenko, and maybe even Benoit and Barry Windham in what would be the Horsemen against their greatest rivals.
“It would all culminate at WrestleMania, which was Steve Austin’s final piece of the puzzle. It ended with Ric’s boots being left in the ring. I submitted it, Vince liked it, but I departed WWE soon thereafter.”
The Flair retirement angle was put on hold until that fall, and then fast-tracked to the pay-off at WrestleMania.
“The finish with Shawn Michaels was a totally different story than I had written, but I thought it was a masterfully told story,” said Bauer. “It turned out great.”
11). WWE CREATIVE HUMOR
Robert Karpeles is a former WWE creative member. He runs the WWE Creative Humor page on Twitter and is a part of the creative team for Major League Wrestling.
“I remember going to WrestleMania 24,” said Karpeles. “It was the first WrestleMania after I left the company so I was going very much just as a fan. The overall show was okay but I thought, ‘I’m glad I was able to see Ric Flair’s last match in person. If nothing else, at least I can say I saw that moment of history. Because there’s no way he will ever wrestle again.’
“And he never wrestled again. Ever.”
The possibility existed in 2008 for The Undertaker’s vaunted “WrestleMania Streak” to come to an end in his world title main event against Edge.
“I’d been talked to about it and I was asked my opinion,” said Edge. “I didn’t think I should end it. And I didn’t think it should ever end.”
Edge still believes that “The Streak” should have lasted until The Undertaker’s final match.
“It was as important or even more important than the world title matches, so you automatically had another built-in main event and it could always go on last,” said Edge. “That was my mindset, and I don’t think Brock should have broken it.
“I don’t think anyone should have broken it until it was decided that it was The Undertaker’s last WrestleMania. Then you save that for a Roman Reigns, but you make sure it’s his last ‘Mania. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way, but that was the way I always saw it.”
13). BRUCE PRICHARD and CONRAD THOMPSON
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels held a public workout in Boston with special ring enforcer Mike Tyson in advance of WrestleMania 14.
The event was held at noon on Thursday, March 26, 1998, just three days before Austin defeated Michaels for the World Wrestling Federation title. Called the “WrestleMania Public Workout,” WWE booked Boston’s City Hall Plaza to hold the event and told city police and fire officials that the event was expected to hold 2,000 people.
Except that over 5,000 people arrived three hours before the event even started.
“The Boston Chief of Police came over to us, and he was livid,” said Bruce Prichard, who worked alongside Vince McMahon for over two decades and now hosts the “Something To Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast with Conrad Thompson. “Apparently, we were closer to 12,000 people at that point. So they had to call in the riot squad just to police it.”
Fans were treated to two matches – Taka Michinoku defending his light heavyweight title over Scott Taylor and the Headbangers beating Los Boricuas – before Austin and Michaels had a showdown in the ring.
Michaels, however, was nowhere to be found.
“We had a ‘Gorilla position’ down in the underground parking garage,” said Prichard. “That was our combat station. We had Shawn, Hunter, Tyson, and Chyna stationed in a limo in one place, then Steve Austin in another place, and the rest of the talent was with us.”
When Michaels finally made his way to the ring, he got hit in the head with a battery from someone in the crowd. The notoriously difficult Michaels was already in a sour mood, and he quickly retreated back to his limo.
“Shawn refused to get out of the limo and told everyone who asked him to get to the ring to go f--- themselves,” recalled Prichard. “So I pulled Hunter and Tyson out of the limo, and told them to go to the ring.
McMahon was seeking was a shot of Steve Austin tied up in the ropes looking face-to-face with Mike Tyson, which he hoped would be snapped by photographers and used for the front page of the Boston newspapers.
“Shawn was supposed to kick the sh-- out of Steve, so I told Hunter to do it instead,” said Prichard. “That’s when Tyson said, ‘I’ll kick the sh-- out of that mother-----.’ And I said, ‘Mike, please, don’t touch him.’
“Shawn finally did come out and do it when everyone was in the ring, but that was the beginning of that storm for the week. Shawn was becoming more and more difficult as we approached WrestleMania.”
Conrad Thompson, who co-hosts the podcast with Prichard, also noted that Michaels’ run with the WWF was quickly coming to an end.
“People remember that Bret Hart finished with the company in November of ‘97,” said Thompson. “But it’s easy to forget that Shawn was gone by the following March.”
“The Vince-Shawn relationship was deteriorating badly,” added Prichard. “Shawn was a petulant brat who would stomp his feet until he got his way. From Royal Rumble to WrestleMania, we only had one goal: get the match in the ring and get the title to Austin.”
Michaels was even difficult on the day of WrestleMania 14, as he originally refused to take Tyson’s punch at the end of the show after he lost to Austin.
“That’s when ‘Taker stepped in,” said Prichard. “He had his fists taped in the back and said, ‘If Shawn doesn’t want to take Tyson’s punch, then the mother----- is going to take mine.’”
14). KAYFABE NEWS
This next section is brought to you by Kayfabe News Editor-in-Chief Colin Hunter, who covers the WWE on a daily basis in a more enjoyable manner than almost anyone in wrestling.
“Kayfabe News continued to demonstrate in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania why it has become the world’s most trusted source of accurate, serious, and reliable journalism about professional wrestling,” said Hunter, whose site bills itself as “unreal news about an unreal sport.”
“In an era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts,’ thank goodness Kayfabe News has maintained its impeccable journalistic integrity with WrestleMania coverage like the following:
- WWE hangs Fastlane sign to give mid-carders something to point at
- CONFIRMED! Undertaker definitely either will or will not be at WrestleMania
- We rank the 728 most shocking times wrestlers pointed at the WrestleMania sign
- Undertaker vows to compete until his WrestleMania record is “even-steven”
- WrestleMania canceled amid allegations of match-fixing
“Kayfabe News will be in New Orleans, greeting loyal subscribers at WrestleCon and stumbling down Bourbon Street due to excessive... um... research.”
15). JIM ROSS
Jim Ross’ list of WrestleMania hits most recently includes last year’s match between Roman Reigns and The Undertaker.
Ross also called the first Austin-Rock affair in Philadelphia at WrestleMania 15, which served as a major advancement in the company’s battle against WCW in 1999. But his personal favorite ‘Mania took place six years prior to Philly.
“My favorite WrestleMania is WrestleMania IX,” said Ross. “That’s where I debuted, that’s where I launched my WWE career. I don’t know that it was the best WrestleMania that we ever produced, but it sure was my favorite, starting my 20-plus year run there.”
Ross called WrestleMania IX alongside Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I was so excited about being in Vegas and doing the show outdoors, so excited for the opportunity,” said Ross. “As a broadcaster, I hadn’t done too many 3-man broadcast teams. I’m still not a big fan of them, personally, and I had never worked with Bobby Heenan and I’d never worked with Randy Savage. And we didn’t have any practices. We didn’t go in the studio and call a bunch of matches.
“We did it on the fly, live, with no net. Now that was an adventure. Heenan was so easy and so amazing with his timing and his comedic wit. He had the ability to say the right thing at the right time. Savage, on the other hand, was totally unpredictable and could be irreverent at times. He could caustic, or combustible, at times. So they’re both polar opposites, and I sat in the middle. It was a very interesting dynamic, that whole experience.”
Ross explained that his role on the WrestleMania headset was never to overshadow the talent in the ring, but solely to enhance what was already taking place.
“The wrestlers make music, and the announcers provide lyrics,” said Ross. “The music always comes before the lyrics. If the announcer tries to make the music adapt to his lyrics, it’s a failing formula. You follow the music. You follow your monitor, and you see those two guys, or four guys, or women, doing their thing and you follow the music. And to that music, your instincts should help you create the appropriate lyric. That’s the magic, when the music and the lyric fit. You can bring people into the process without them fixating on the endings that are predetermined and you can get them to suspend their disbelief.”
16). HARLEY RACE
While Shawn Michaels may not have had the best reputation as world champion, Harley Race did.
When asked if there was anyone he would have liked to wrestle at a WrestleMania, Race only had one person in mind.
“It has to be Ric Flair,” said Race. “Him and I were involved in a lot of head-to-head matches. There was a point in time when we were both so tied into what we wanted in wrestling.”
The Race-Flair encounter at Starrcade ‘83 in a steel cage served as a WrestleMania template for a build and match that could draw interest from around the country, and later, throughout the world.
“I never, ever put things in a line where I say this is one is the greatest one, because then the other ones are all bad,” said Race. “But that match was constructed with my entire mindset of how things should go. I said to myself, ‘This is going to be it, and it’s going to be mine.’ That’s what it came out being between Ric and I.”
The WWE is once again showcasing its talent in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 34.
The WrestleMania II battle royal featured a brief encounter between Bruno Sammartino and Bret Hart. This connected generations, as Sammartino won his first WWWF championship in 1963, while Hart would capture his first heavyweight title in 1992.
The WrestleMania XXX battle royal was won by Cesaro, who is perhaps the closest resemblance to a modern-day Sammartino and even employs Hart’s sharpshooter as part of his repertoire in the ring.
“That is, definitely, the greatest moment of my career,” said Cesaro. “It was WrestleMania 30, and the first-ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in front of almost 80,000 from all over the world in New Orleans. Slamming the Big Show over the top rope, that was a magical moment and I was in the center of it. It’s something I hold very near and dear to my heart.”
Cesaro will defend the Raw tag team titles with Sheamus against Braun Strowman and his mystery partner, but that encounter is not his dream WrestleMania match.
“Myself and Sheamus versus the Steiner Brothers,” said Cesaro. “That would be my choice.”
18). THE “TASKMASTER” KEVIN SULLIVAN
Booking “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 18 seemed impossible.
Hogan and Austin were less than fond of each other, particularly in 2002, and ego would have been a major roadblock in constructing a match. Ultimately, Hogan wrestled The Rock, while Austin had a forgettable match with Scott Hall.
But “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan battling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin could have been the match of the century.
“You just needed to get Hogan and Austin in a room together with someone they respected, like Pat Patterson,” said Kevin Sullivan, the longtime booker who helped convince Hogan to turn heel in WCW. “Pat would have left to get some coffee, and that would have forced Hogan and Austin to look at each other.
“Now remember, this isn’t real. None of us threw for 50 touchdown passes or hit 50 home runs. You’ve got to get people together to do the right thing. If they got Austin and Hogan together and talked it out, they could have had the match.”
As for a finish, Sullivan knows exactly how the match should have ended.
“I would have had Austin go over,” said Sullivan. “Hogan was at the point in his career where he wasn’t going to get over any more than he already was, and Austin was the hottest thing in the wrestling business. Austin had to go over.
“That would have been a great time to pass the torch. It was the right thing to do.”
19). CHRIS JERICHO
“Going on last isn’t always the main event,” said Chris Jericho. “See WrestleMania 18.”
WrestleMania 18 closed with a Jericho-Triple H match that followed the Hogan-Rock spectacle, and the encounter served as a missed opportunity for Jericho to further cement himself as WWE’s undisputed champion.
“The push was that I won the belt in the first place,” explained Jericho. “Out of the four guys in that championship tournament, nobody picked Chris Jericho. It was The Rock, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, and me. I was the one guy who didn’t fit in with those other three in terms of positioning, so the fact that I won it at all was the huge push.
“Then Triple H came back and I lost at WrestleMania, and that’s fine. To me, the defining moment of my career as a champion came in 2008 when I won it in again in a scramble, won it again from Batista, and won it a third time in the space of a year-and-change against The Undertaker at the Elimination Chamber. So that took me from a 3-time champion to a 6-time champion, and that’s when I was, in reality, the top heel in the company.
“Back in 2002 [before WrestleMania 18], when I won the belt, they gave it to me to help me get over, but I wasn’t the most pushed heel in the company, nor was I the most over heel in the company. It took me a long time to get back to that point where I could be champion again.”
Bill Goldberg has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows at WrestleMania.
Both happened in matches against Brock Lesnar, with the first occurring in 2004.
Lesnar and Goldberg were each finishing up with WWE at WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, and the crowd despised everything about that match until special guest referee Steve Austin stunned both men to end the disaster of a match.
Goldberg returned to WWE over a decade later, creating a massive amount of interest when he upset Lesnar in their match at the 2016 Survivor Series. The two kept the program going until WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, when Lesnar defeated Goldberg for the same Universal championship that he will defend this Sunday against Roman Reigns.
For Goldberg, who will be inducted tonight into the WWE Hall of Fame, the moment that meant the most to him at WrestleMania 33 took place as he walked down the ramp on his way to the ring.
“I’d never, ever walked out of that ‘Gorilla position’ in the past and had fun with what I was doing,” said Goldberg. “Yet here I was faced with possibly my last match ever and it was the most fun I ever had approaching the ring.
“I walked through that ‘Gorilla position’ with a smile on my face for the first time, and people in WWE didn’t know what the hell was going on. I was soaking it all in, and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity because I knew it could be my last.”
Goldberg was asked if he has one more WrestleMania match in store for fans this weekend in New Orleans.
“I’ll say it during my Hall of Fame speech,” said Goldberg. “It ain’t over ‘til I say it’s over. So you never know, we’ll see what they throw at me.”
Sting finally captured an enduring moment on a WWE canvas at WrestleMania 31, when the ring was covered in members of the NWO and DX as he wrestled Triple H.
Another dream WrestleMania match would have been Sting battling former tag team partner the Ultimate Warrior. The pair worked together as the Blade Runners tag team in 1985 and ’86 for Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling.
“It was very intense, lots of turmoil, all those years wrestling with Ultimate Warrior,” said Sting. “We were so competitive. And even though we were a tag team, we were competing against each other.”
Compounding the matter was that Sting and the Warrior, who passed away in 2014, were both new to the business and each was trying to make the best impression possible.
“It was very tense, lots of good times, bad times, and lots of very ugly times,” said Sting. “We almost split off several times, until we finally did split off. He went to World Class [Championship Wrestling] and I stayed with Bill Watts.
“When we split ways, we split ways. I’d run into him every two or three years. It was always friendly. He became world champ up there with WWE, and I became world champ with WCW. Then he finally got back with WWE and kind of made amends with everybody, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with him and maybe even doing some stuff on the road with him. It’s a bummer, but the rest is history.”
22). KEVIN NASH & SCOTT HALL
An interesting WrestleMania “moment” would be the 1990s WWE locker room discussing their least favorite member of the Kliq.
If there ever were a WrestleMania match to decide who was the least popular member of the Kliq, “insiders” Kevin Nash and Scott Hall have their own theories as to who would be victorious.
“Everybody was scared of Kev,” said Hall. “Pac [Sean Waltman] was a sweetheart, so everybody loved Pac, but everybody hated me and Shawn. And it was mostly Shawn.”
Nash noted that both Michaels and Hall had sizzling heat in the locker room, but that Hall may have been slightly more disliked than Michaels.
“Shawn dressed down a lot of people,” said Nash. “But with Scott, everybody hated him. Even ‘Taker.”
23). BILL MAHER
The “Battle of the Billionaires” took place at WrestleMania 23, featuring Donald Trump shaving Vince McMahon’s head in a hair vs. hair match fought by Bobby Lashley and Umaga.
Trump was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, so he doubles as a rare member of the WWE Hall of Fame and President of the United States. Political satirist and HBO Real Time host Bill Maher believes that the Trump presidency, which received donations from Vince McMahon, was made possible by Fox News.
“How did Trump get to be president?” asked Maher. “Here is the short answer: Fox News. That is the main difference between then and now in politics. Fox News absolutely laid the groundwork for somebody like Donald Trump. Now it’s basically state TV, it’s what communist countries have. It’s an organ of the media but does the absolute bidding of the dear leader.
“For 20 years before Trump came along, Fox News put out this idea of alternative facts. I used to call it the ‘Alternative History Channel’ because they didn’t care what was real, and now we have a president who doesn’t care what is real and his fans don’t care. It doesn’t matter what facts are anymore, they don’t exist. The truth is what they say it is. I’m not going to say Fox News invented that, but they brought that to America and they made it a part of our problem, because their viewers just tuned out from reality. Global warming doesn’t exist because it doesn’t exist on Fox News. In that atmosphere, a man like Trump is possible.”
Trump helped headline WrestleMania 23 by standing in Lashley’s corner as he fought Umaga, who was cornered by McMahon. If Trump had chosen wrestling instead of politics, Maher was confident he could predict Trump’s finishing move.
“Trump is a bar fighter, so anything you would do in a bar fight,” said Maher. “Like when they pick up the f------ chair and throw it at each other, that’s actually perfect for him. A bar fight, as we all know, is one where there are no rules. That’s the first rule of a bar fight. You do whatever you need to do and you pick up whatever is there, whether it’s a bottle, a can opener, or a baseball bat or glasses. That’s what Trump does. As we see from the way he speaks, he just pulls anything out of his ass like a con man does. It’s a lie, he probably knows it’s a lie–it’s coming out of his mouth, it has to be–but it doesn’t matter to him. It’s today’s lie, and he’ll worry about the fact they bust him about it tomorrow with another lie tomorrow.”
24). “HACKSAW” JIM DUGGAN
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011 in a ceremony similar to the one that will take place tonight at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Duggan was asked, if he were in charge of the Hall of Fame, what changes he would make to the induction process.
“One of the criticisms is that they put kids in too quick,” said Duggan. “There are so many guys out there that are so deserving. A guy like Edge, who is one of the best ever and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, shouldn’t go in only two years after being out of the business.”
A mandatory number of years before induction, like the Baseball Hall of Fame does, could help the induction process, which is still filled with questions.
“What’s the secret to getting in?” asked Duggan. “No one knows. And when you’re not in, people ask you, ‘When are you getting into the Hall of Fame?’ You can only be honest and say, ‘I don’t know.’
“But it’s a great honor to be inducted by your peers. Ted DiBiase inducted me, and I’m grateful to be in, but there are still a lot of deserving people who should go in, too.”
25). THE WOMEN OF WRESTLEMANIA
Charlotte Flair and Asuka have a rare opportunity this Sunday to steal the show at WrestleMania 34.
The history of women’s matches at WrestleMania is far from long or distinguished, but the table is set for Flair and Asuka–who are working a singles match in a card drowning in multi-mans–to tell a magnificent story in the ring that either prolongs Asuka’s undefeated streak or allows Flair to create history by ending it.
My personal prediction? Asuka wins the match, but down the line, Flair eventually ends the streak.
26). ROB VAN DAM
Even in 2018, Rob Van Dam has an opponent in mind for a dream match at WrestleMania.
“I would still love to wrestle Sabu at a WrestleMania,” said Van Dam. “Sabu is my favorite guy to be in the ring with, we’re family.
“I could also wrestle someone like Penta, but Sabu and I, we both have the same idea of what cool is and what a good move is. If it were up to me, I would love to wrestle Sabu at a WrestleMania.”
27). “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND
“Mean” Gene Okerlund’s backstage interviews have served as an integral presence over the years at WrestleMania.
The etymology of his “Mean” moniker began during a conversation with broadcast partner Jesse “The Body” Ventura while the two worked for the AWA.
“Jesse and I were talking on the air in Minneapolis,” said Okerlund. “Jesse said something about serving as the bodyguard for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and I said, ‘That’s great. Tom Petty, that’s a big name.’ And Jesse responded, ‘You don’t even know who Tom Petty is!’ I corrected him and said, ‘I certainly do, Jesse, he is the famous race car driver.’ And that’s when Jesse said, ‘That’s mean, Gene.’ That is how it all started.”
Gillberg is still waiting for his WrestleMania moment with Goldberg.
The man behind the Gillberg character -- Duane Gill -- has the match mapped out if and when this ever becomes a possibility.
“I would start off by challenging him,” said Gillberg. “I’d tell him that over the years, the reason we never wrestled is because he knew I was a better wrestler than him and jay he didn’t want to be beat by a parody of himself.”
Gillberg noted that the encounter would end on his own back as Goldberg walked away victorious.
“When actually got to WrestleMania, we would do the ‘gaga’ at the beginning,” said Gillberg. “I could make him miss a couple moves. Eventually he would catch me, spear me, and jackhammer me, but I would love it.
“Goldberg did extremely well with the way he played his role. I feel that I have taken the role to the next step in keeping it going for 18 years. He realizes it was a parody, and Bill even thanked me for keeping him relevant for the run he had. It was my pleasure to play the role of Gillberg.”
Despite some rumors to the contrary, Gillberg also noted that there was no chance of a match against James Ellsworth at last year's 'Mania.
“We gave it the old college try on the internet, but it didn’t work,” said Gillberg. “I really feel there was no chance of it.”
29). KOFI KINGSTON
The one match Kofi Kingston wishes one day will take place at a WrestleMania is a straight-up tag team affair between the New Day and the Usos.
“Right now, there is nobody out there with better chemistry than us and the Usos,” said Kingston. “We would love, love, love to have the Usos at WrestleMania.”
WrestleMania 34 comes close, as the Usos defend the SmackDown tag titles in a three-way against the Bludgeon Brothers and the New Day.
“The Usos, those guys are so good,” said Kingston. “I always say that, in order to be great, you have to appreciate greatness. The Usos, in the past two years, have come into their own. They’ve really found themselves, and going back-and-forth with their promos and the way they interact, you understand these guys are twins and their connection is deep. Everything they do, from their in-ring work to their mic work, to them cutting us all up backstage, shows they are the truth. It’s so good to see them really get what they deserve.
“The Usos have never been on a WrestleMania main card, so it’s great that it’s with us. There hasn’t been a better opponent for the New Day than the Usos. It’s a true joy to work with them. We always know that we’re going to try to out-do each other to the point where the match is going to be off the charts.”
30). KEVIN ECK
Former WWE creative member Kevin Eck offered some unique insight on Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, and “The Streak”.
“The original plan from Vince McMahon was to end ‘The Streak,’” said Eck. “Vince thought Brock Lesnar was the guy to do it, but no one else on the creative team really agreed with that.”
Eck does a tremendous job writing about the world of pro wrestling each week for Press Box and The Sporting News, offering the perspective of someone whose wrestling experience includes covering the business for The Baltimore Sun as well as working for World Championship Wrestling.
“I know Hunter didn’t agree with the idea, but this was a couple months out, so we always felt there was time for Vince to change his mind,” explained Eck. “Michael Hayes, who was very close with Undertaker, also thought it was not the right move. He made a couple final pleas to Vince not to do it and have ‘Taker go over, and Vince apparently relented.”
Eck and the rest of the creative team were then informed that The Undertaker’s WrestleMania win streak would continue at WrestleMania 30, as ‘Taker was booked to defeat Lesnar.
“The finish was going to be Undertaker going over,” said Eck. “I don’t know how people knew that night, it was obviously a very tightly guarded secret, but all of us on the creative team knew the results of all the matches–so when the referee hit the mat for the third time in that Undertaker-Lesnar match, a bunch of us in the back watching on a monitor were as stunned as the crowd. We thought the referee made a mistake.”
Once Lesnar’s music hit and the “21-1” graphic appeared, Eck then realized that McMahon changed his mind.
“If you follow the dominos, it all falls to trying to get Roman Reigns over as best as possible,” said Eck. “The long-term plan was for Roman Reigns to win the title from Brock Lesnar, so Brock needed to be as strong as possible and unbeatable, with as many feathers in his cap. The idea was that if Lesnar ended the streak, he’d be seen as the unstoppable force with real heat and it would be that much bigger when Roman Reigns would ultimately beat Lesnar down the line. That’s what it was all based around–trying to make Lesnar as big as possible, and sacrificing the streak to do that.
“Vince saw ‘The Streak’ as a chip to could cash in when the time was right, and really make somebody. I know a lot of people think you should make a new guy in that spot, but indirectly, the new guy was Roman Reigns. He was going to beat the guy who beat the guy.”
31). LUKE GALLOWS
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson walked into WrestleMania 33 as Raw tag team champions, but dropped the titles to the returning Hardy Boyz in a fatal-four-way ladder match.
The match had extra meaning for Gallows, who grew up in love with the art of tag team wrestling.
“Karl and I have done a good job so far carving out our names in the annals of the history of tag team wrestling, but we haven’t done a great job yet,” said Gallows. “You look at these teams who were together longer – the Dudleys, the Steiners, and my all-time favorite, the Legion of Doom – so we need to rack up some more tag team titles, some more hardware for the mantel pieces, so we’re etched in stone. We’re working on it, but the best is yet to come. There is a lot of untapped potential, backstage and in the ring.”
Gallows shared that his dream tag match at WrestleMania would be with Karl Anderson against The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
“Hang the titles above the ring, bring Karl and I out there–we want Finn walking in with us–and put Stone Cold and The Rock across from us,” said Gallows. “If we’re going to go for it, then let’s go as big as we can go.”
For those curious how that match would end, Gallows already has it mapped out.
“It ends with a magic killer, a 1-2-3, and a ‘Too Sweet,’” said Gallows. “Remember, this is my fantasy.”
32). JIM JOHNSTON
Jim Johnston, the longtime WWE song composer, has only performed at one WrestleMania.
“That would be WrestleMania 14 in a phenomenally rare performance in Boston,” said Johnston, who put together a DX band to play with leader singer Chris Warren. “We played the DX theme and we played Triple H in.”
Johnston has horrible stage fright, which is the reason why he was so rarely seen on WWE programming.
“I’m nervous playing songs to my wife, for God’s sake,” said Johnston. “But being out there [at WrestleMania 14] with so many people, it was almost like the numbers changed. It was so absolutely overwhelming. The numbers were so great that I just felt like a speck, and it went off great.”
33). BRET “THE HITMAN” HART
The rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin took place at WrestleMania 13 just outside Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon, with an integral part of Austin’s success due to the work of “The Hitman” Bret Hart.
“This was supposed to be a rematch at WrestleMania with me and Shawn,” said Hart. “If you remember, he had to go home and retire to find his smile and all that. I don’t know even to this day whether he had a bad knee or not, but he bowed out of WrestleMania because I don’t think he wanted to work with me.
“They ended up throwing me and Steve together about three weeks before the pay per view. It was kind of an ice-cold story line. But it was a big disappoint, at first, for Steve and me. We’d just fought at the Survivor Series, and even though we loved working together, he was looking for someone new to work with and I was looking for Shawn. That was the first real sign of the bad tension between Shawn and I, and the problems that led down the road.
“But the match with Austin was pro wrestling’s version of the best MMA fight, it looked like a real toe-to-toe brawl. Steve even calls me once in a while and goes, ‘I got our match on.’ He always tells me it’s his favorite, and it’s the same for me.
“That match with Austin and the Iron Man are my two favorite matches of all time. It’s just so beautiful to watch that story unfold between Steve and I. Watching how I went out the hero and he came out the bad guy, then 35 minutes later, we switched places and he was the good guy and I was the bad guy. It’s a really fascinating time period. I’ve always felt that Steve was good enough to make it on his own anyway, but I do like to think I played a role in helping him.”
34). AJ STYLES
The pro wrestling world is only days away from AJ Styles’ highly anticipated match against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania.
“I’m going to tell people something that they probably don’t know, but I’ll prepare for WrestleMania like I prepare for every match,” said Styles. “I loosen up, jump around, and smile.
“That’s how I get ready. I know what is about to take place, so I am excited for it to happen. If you see me beforehand, I’ll be smiling.”
This is Styles’ third WrestleMania. His first match was a loss to Chris Jericho and his second was a win over Shane McMahon, with the third against Nakamura serving as a chance to carve his name in WWE history.
“It is WrestleMania and it is a big deal, but once the bell rings, I’ll be focused and it will be go time,” said Styles. “I know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Once the bell rings, I’ll be ready.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.