Anniversaries like the 30th annual WrestleMania, held April 6 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, provide an opportunity for reflection not only on the past but the future.
In its three decades, WrestleMania has become a part of the cultural fabric of sports entertainment, but when WWE®'s Vince McMahon founded WrestleMania in 1985, its success was far from certain. The first WrestleMania was a bold gamble, an example of the sort of visionary risk-taking that brought WWE from its regional roots to the global powerhouse it is today. Back when multiple sports-entertainment territories were vying for market share, Vince McMahon saw the success of other promotions' annual events and knew he could do better. He was so confident that he staked WWE's future on the financial success of a single show: WrestleMania.
Rise of a Global Phenomenon
The first WrestleMania®, at Madison Square Garden in 1985, was not just a series of wrestling matches, but a star-studded gala event, a night full of high-profile celebrities from music, film and television. Cyndi Lauper managed the challenger for the Women's Championship, and in the main event, Hulk Hogan™ teamed with the actor Mr. T in a match refereed by Muhammad Ali. That recipe of sports-entertainment competition plus glitz, glamour and titillating celebrity cross-over was wildly succesful: over a million fans watched the first WrestleMania via closed-circuit television at arenas across North America.
McMahon continued to innovate. WrestleMania II involved matches held in three different states simultaneously, in New York, California and Illinois. More importantly, it expanded its broadcast reach from closed-circuit showings to home pay-per-view. The model of televised matches and live shows building towards big pay-per-views became industry standard. By the time WrestleMania III set a world indoor attendance record of 93,173 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome, there was no doubt WWE had become the single dominant force in global professional wrestling.
While there are many factors that make WrestleMania® great, its foundation has always been in-ring competition. The history of explosive WrestleMania matches is the history of sports entertainment itself, and no survey could do them all justice. Fortunately, this legacy is now at your fingertips on the newly launched WWE® Network. To further enhance your appreciation, try actively participating in historical WrestleMania contests via the WWE 2K14 video game's innovative "30 Years of WrestleMania" mode, or visit WWE.com and tune into Renee Young's "30 Years of WrestleMania" podcast, where Renee gets first-hand inside perspectives on WrestleMania from some of WWE's all-time great Superstars.
Wrestlemania is the stage where legends are born. The legendary Hulk Hogan™ returns as special guest host of WrestleMania. Hogan made history at WrestleMania III by body-slamming the 7'2", 500+ lb Andre the Giant™. In the minds of many, that feat remains the all-time greatest WrestleMania moment.
At WrestleMania VI, held in Toronto Canada, Hogan faced off against the frenzied and ferocious Ultimate Warrior™. WWE will memorialize the greatest moments when Ultimate Warrior is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 5. In this contest between two beloved fan favorites, the Warrior ultimately prevailed, but Hulkamania continued to run wild. Hogan was back on top for WrestleMania VII, in which he defeated a traitorous Sergeant Slaughter™. WrestleMania VII is remembered as the first 'Mania match for the Undertaker®, whose victory over Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Snuka™ marked the beginning of what was to become the industry's most famous winning streak.
The ladder match between Razor Ramon™ and Shawn Michaels™ at WrestleMania X has been heaped with the highest praise, heralded as a genre-defining classic. It was a groundbreaking performance from both men and one of many WrestleMania highlights from Michaels, whose consistently show-stopping 'Mania performances earned him the nickname "Mr. WrestleMania."
Undertaker® and the Streak
One of the strongest threads weaving together WrestleMania®'s past and present is the Streak, the unbroken run of WrestleMania victories by the uncanny Undertaker. The Undertaker, who seems to transcend time, is something more than human. His very presence inspires awe and fear, and he carries in him the flame of professional wrestling's deathless outlaw spirit, the gold standard of toughness and professionalism to which younger generations can only aspire.
Many of WrestleMania's most compelling moments are Undertaker matches, including the two he had against "Mr. WrestleMania" Shawn Michaels™ at WrestleManias XXVII and XXVIII. To see either of those matches unfold, whether for the first or the fiftieth time, is to witness the pinnacle of sports entertainment, indisputable proof of its power as a narrative art form. The gripping grandeur of these epic contests is truly the essence of WrestleMania.
At WrestleMania XXX, Undertaker and his streak face their most daunting challenge to date in the form of "The Beast Incarnate" Brock Lesnar, a monstrous former mixed-martial-arts champion whose savagery and limitless appetite for violence are making many Undertaker fans uneasy. Whether the Undertaker's win streak will survive is one of many burning questions that will be answered inside the Superdome April 6.
Into the Future
A consistent aspect of WrestleMania® has been its innovation. That innovation is in the Superstars breaking through to new levels of athleticism, WrestleMania's phenomenal pyro displays and fireworks embedded in its world-class technical production. It's also in the ever-evolving ways in which the WWE® Universe can share and experience WrestleMania live. Imagine trying to explain to a fan in 1985 that thanks to WWE Network, people would one day be able to enjoy not just that first WrestleMania on-demand, but experience WrestleMania XXX as it's happening on their tablets, laptops, network-connected televisions or streaming devices.
Who knows what lies ahead? Hall-of-Famer Sergeant Slaughter™, who main-evented WrestleMania VII, has one theory. "Maybe WrestleMania 40 will be on the moon, or Mars. I wouldn't put anything past Vince. Some type of rocket with a ring in it. We could see it." It's true; anything's possible in WWE. With WrestleMania thirty years strong and still getting stronger, not even the sky is the limit.
WrestleMania® with Attitude
At WrestleMania XIII in 1997, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin™ passed out in Bret Hart™'s notorious Sharpshooter submission manuever. Though Austin lost the match, his iron-willed refusal to tap out and Bret Hart's nasty post-match attack on the unconscious Austin showed audiences a new side of both Superstars. This extreme ordeal was the beginning of Stone Cold taking WWE® to new heights.
At WrestleMania XIV, Austin defeated Shawn Michaels in a match featuring Mike Tyson as the special enforcer. It was a landmark of the Attitude Era, a time of edgy, push-the-envelope programming and personalities that led to WWE's victory over its competitor WCW. WrestleMania XVII brought us Attitude Era icon The Rock® facing Hulk Hogan™ in a match for the ages, a magic clash between figures who each defined their own time periods. This irresistible dynamic was in play again when John Cena® fought The Rock at WrestleManias XXVIII and XXIX.
At WrestleMania XXIII, longtime friend of WWE, Donald Trump, had his most direct involvement to date, putting his famous hair on the line against Mr. McMahon's in a "Battle of the Billionaires." No-one who experienced the intense and deeply moving match between two-time Hall-of-Famer Ric Flair™ and Shawn Michaels™ at WrestleMania XXIV will ever forget it. It was an emotional rollercoaster that retains its power, years later, to bring viewers to tears.