To infringe on a gimmick, WrestleMania is the EST of WWE’s calendar. It’s the biggest, glitziest, thrillingest weekend in the year, the moment stories come to their conclusion and legends are made. It’s also, often, the predicablest (or if you prefer, the most predictable).
Predictability in wrestling isn’t always a bad thing: often it means the story has unfolded as it should have, and makes sense dramatically or logically. From Hogan beating Andre to Daniel Bryan overcoming the odds, these were the finales fans expected, and they’re no worse for that.
When WWE can pull a proper surprise out of the bag, then, the effect is all the greater for its scarcity. The majority of comebacks, heel turns, story twists and outcomes are heavily telegraphed, either by the company’s presentation or the dirt sheets. It’s not at all easy to keep something a secret these days, but the rewards - seeing 100,000 people lose their collective minds - are pretty sweet.
That’s not to say that every surprise is a winner, of course; they’re by their nature risky choices, and can backfire big time. When WWE goes out on a limb and it works, though, you’ve most likely got yourself a WrestleMania moment for the ages.
10. Owen Beats Bret
Through convoluted but effective means, Bret Hart was scheduled to work double duty at WrestleMania X. If there’s anyone you’d be happy to watch twice in one night it’s the Hitman (his second opponent Yokozuna less so), and he opened the show with a barnburner against his own brother.
While these two could put on a technical clinic any day of the week, WWE went above and beyond story-wise. It was a one sided feud; Owen, finally sick of his overachieving brother, takes the fight to the trenches in order to claim the spotlight he feels he deserves.
As Bret jostles and grapples, Owen gets nasty, working his brother’s knee and even going below the belt. As Jerry Lawler (on his A-game behind the commentary desk) says, the Hitman may be the better wrestler but the Rocket is the better fighter. The surprise finish, though, sees Owen deploy his amateur skills, countering a victory roll into a pin of his own.
The undersized underdog leaves his stunned brother in the ring, grabbing a victory for younger siblings the world over and giving ‘Mania X a shocking start. Besides the surprise factor, it’s a smart piece of booking, elevating Owen and protecting Bret. What’s more, it’s one of the company’s most historically important bouts. Two “normal” sized guys in place of yesteryear’s giants - this is wrestling’s Enlightenment.