We are now less than 24 hours away from Wrestlemania 28 and I’m sure wrestling fans everywhere are starting to feel the excitement and the anticipation. Last time I covered Wrestlemania highlights from the last calendar week (19th – 25th March) but that only begins to scratch at the surface! What happened on THIS calendar week (26th March – 1st April) in Wrestlemania history I hear you cry? Well, here are two more selected Wrestlemania moments to tide you over until the big show! This is This Week in Wrestling History: Wrestlemania Special Part 2!
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Champion vs. Champion: The Ultimate Warrior (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Hulk Hogan (WWF Champion)
Hulk Hogan had been the WWFs biggest star through the late eighties. Not only was Hogan the biggest draw in the company, he was the biggest draw that the WWF and professional wrestling had ever seen. Hogans popularity had reached levels previously unheard of as he became a household name and a global celebrity. Simply put, in many ways, he was in a league of his own. Other big names in the WWF at this time just couldn’t reach the same levels of popularity with the fans. Men such as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Andre The Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts were all beloved by fans but it didn’t seem as though these men were ever going to receieve the same kind of response from the audience that Hogan did. There was however one man who threatened to stand in the way of the WWF Champion.
The Ultimate Warrior, from Parts Unknown, was a larger than life, colourful, exciting character. He may not have been one of the most loved, respected men by many of his peers but the people who did love Warrior were the WWF fans and yes, I was one of them as a small child. Warrior was intensity personified and was quickly becoming the biggest rival to Hulk Hogans popularity. Leading into Wrrestlemania VI, on April 1st 1990 infront of nearly 68,000 at the Toronto Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The Ultimate Warrior was Hulk Hogans most popular challenger.
Both men had been pushed into the spotlight leading up to this encounter, both having lengthy championship reigns. At Summerslam 1989, on August 28th, The Ultimate Warrior won back his Intercontinental Championship from Rick Rude. Hogan had won his WWF Championship at Wrestlemania V, on April 2nd 1989. Both titles were on the line in this main-event. This event would either see Hulk Hogan defeat the biggest threat to his championship and his popularity or see The Ultimate Warrior take the Immortal One’s spotlight and potentially his spot at the top of the pile in the WWF. Theres surely no doubt in anybodys mind that going over on Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship would be the biggest accomplishment in any mans career at this time. If the Warrior could pull it off then doing so on the grandest stage of them all would immortalise his name and his legacy in the WWF forever.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
In 1998 Shawn Michaels was forced to retire from professional wrestling due to a back injury. An injury that most seemed to think would keep Michaels out of the ring forever. However in 2002 the “Heart Break Kid” made his triumphant return to the ring and, somehow, was able to dazzle fans by stopping shows in that same, trademark, unimitable fashion that he did before his injury. Michaels return to the WWE was a huge success and he even captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in his second tenure.
In Michaels absence, Chris Jericho had climbed the ranks of the WWE. Since moving from WCW to the WWF in 1999 Jericho had captured his own championship, winning the very first Undisputed Championship when the WWF and WCW belts were unified in 2001. When Jericho was training to be a wrestler and when Jericho was still trying to make a name for himself around the world, in Japan and Mexico among other places, the wrestler he most often imitated, looked up to and respected, according to the man himself, was Shawn Michaels.
Shawn Michaels is “Mr. Wrestlemania”, a name not given to him lightly. Shawn Michaels had battled Razor Ramon in the famous Ladder match at Wrestlemania 10, gone over an hour with Bret Hart in an iron man match for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 12 and been double-crossed by Mike Tyson in his defeat to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14 in one of, if not the, biggest main-event in Wrestlemania history. Shawn Michaels was “Mr. Wrestlemania” because he had provided more “moments” than anyone ever had before at this event as well as elevated it to heights nobody ever had.
On March 30th 2003, at Wrestlemania 19, these two men would meet in a highly-anticipated match that had all the makings of another potential show-stealer. Whether Shawn Michaels would triumph over the cocky, dastardly Chris Jericho or whether Y2J would be able to defeat his idol on the biggest stage possible, these two men were always likely to stop this show together – despite main-events later in the evening featuring huge matches between Hulk Hogan and Mr.McMahon, the final chapter in the Rock/Austin saga and Kurt Angle defending his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar.