Usually, the shifting trajectory of professional wrestling can be traced to a single match because that match promises change. The very idea is to make change happen.
The big, World Championship win is framed as the pinnacle of achievement, and often the genesis of a new era. Bret Hart's maiden 1992 reign gradually shifted the WWF away from magnetic if basic hoss battles powered by megastars; with the mainstream bubble burst, only the real wrestling fans remained. Bret Hart was the wrestler for the wrestling fan: an astute choice to lead what would be subsequently marketed as the New Generation.
'Stone Cold' Steve Austin captured the WWF Heavyweight Championship from Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV in front of a roaring crowd adorned in those iconic 'Austin 3:16' black tees. In doing so, he was framed as the undisputed, super-over top star of the emerging Attitude Era. That match was designed to convey the idea of change, and the design was meticulous. Vince McMahon refused to crown Austin prematurely, willingly allowing Montreal to happen rather than present Austin's huge moment as a rushed political necessity.
The landscape also changes by accident.
That famous design, and the character itself, may not have exploded the industry, had he not made an impression in the mind of his boss - and on the whipped back of a 1996 opponent...