After the dust settled at WrestleMania 21, it seemed as though WWE would voyage into new frontiers with two new flag-bearers in John Cena and Batista. Certainly, the two were kept strong throughout the remainder of 2005 as the alpha dogs of each brand, but the company itself didn't exactly steer into uncharted terrain. In fact, they took more than just a frolic in the green grass of familiarity.
First, 52-year-old Hulk Hogan headlined SummerSlam in a match with Shawn Michaels that set new standards for absurdist performance art. Then WWE brought Monday Night Raw back to their ancestral home of the USA Network after five years away. Their return "home" coincided with the revival of Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC, after more than 13 years dormant. DVD releases of classic heroes filled retail shelves, including anthologies for Bret Hart, Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts, The Legion of Doom, and others. There was even a DVD devoted to top stars of the eighties.
When the ad campaign for WrestleMania 22 rolled around, what song did we hear? "Big Time" by Peter Gabriel, a funky ditty that's older than all but two WrestleManias.
For Cena and his youthful ilk, the time may have been "now", but WWE was content on turning back the hands of The Boogeyman's broken clock. Everything old was new again.
10. Bret Hart, Steve Austin Snubbed Hulk Hogan At The Hall Of Fame
One of the true highlights of WrestleMania weekend was seeing Bret Hart not only receive Hall of Fame recognition for his years of hard work and brilliance, but also share some light-hearted experiences with the assembled crowd in Chicago. Despite Hart's largely-stoic, matter-of-fact way of speaking, he remained engaging for forty minutes, leaving the crowd in stitches with some profoundly hilarious stories.
The speech wasn't the only rewarding part of Hart's weekend. Thirteen years earlier, when Hogan returned to WWE in the midst of Hart's first WWE Championship reign, he apparently refused to shake Hart's hand, or even say a word to him, when the two crossed paths for the first time in a year. "The Hitman" saw it as a clear eff-you, especially when after the plan was laid out for Hulk to win Hart's belt at WrestleMania 9 (through Yokozuna), he suddenly started acting all buddy-buddy with Bret.
Hart recalls that he was talking with Austin, his inductor, backstage at the Hall of Fame, when Hogan approached the men looking for a handshake. Both Hart and Stone Cold completely ignored him, showing that what goes around, comes around. "The Hitman" never forgets.