wrestling / Columns

The Magnificent Seven: My Favorite WWE Moments

December 31, 2018 | Posted by Mike Chin
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The first edition of The Magnificent Seven appeared on 411mania in January 2014. Here we are, nearly five years and over 250 columns later. I’ve kept them all in a single Word document, and can now say I’ve written over a thousand pages, singles spaced, for this project—and that’s not counting my original 411 column, The Importance of.., which ran from 2008 to 2009

I’ve had a lot of fun coming up with oddball topics to carry the column this far, I’ve enjoyed (and, at times, gritted my teeth through) reading the comments section each week. I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve done some work I’m proud of. But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

I started writing this column as a bachelor with time on my hands. Now, I’m a husband, the father to a one-year-old, teaching three sections of freshman comp each semester, and balancing two-to-three freelance jobs at a time while my kid naps.

These life changes have compelled me to refocus and reprioritize. I’m proud to have kept up The Magnificent Seven for the first year of my son’s life without missing a week, but as I look ahead I recognize it’s time to simplify, focus, and leave some things behind.

This is the last edition of The Magnificent Seven—at least under my authorship. I expect I’ll still weigh in on PPV roundtable previews and features like Fact or Fiction now and then for 411mania, and will poke my head out here and there for other wrestling sites. Otherwise, though, I’m signing off today, with thanks to everyone who read my column regularly and thanks to Larry Csonka for the opportunity to reach you all on a weekly basis.

Last week’s column looked at my favorite wrestling live event memories. I’m closing things down with a reflection on my seven favorite WWE moments that I wasn’t in live attendance for. Note—I’d originally intended not to limit this countdown to WWE exclusively, but wound up making the choice because, to be frank, I’m a WWE guy. I’ve followed WCCW, WCW, TNA, and Lucha Underground with varying degrees of loyalty over my years as a fan, but in the end WWE is the promotion I’ve followed consistently for over thirty years, and five or six out of the seven moments I picked for this countdown of personal favorites were going to come from WWE anyway.

Without further ado, here we go—my seven favorite WWE moments.

#7. The Spear Off The Ladder, WrestleMania 17

It’s tough to argue against WrestleMania 17 as the greatest WWE PPV of all time (though, depending on how you count PPVs, TakeOver: New Orleans gave it a run for its money). It’s a show that in many ways felt like a cap to and celebration of the Attitude Era, including the main event dream match of Steve Austin vs. The Rock with the two on more or less equal footing by that point as a generation’s biggest stars. Moreover, the sight of Austin drinking a beer with Mr. McMahon to close the show lent a proper sense of finality to WWE winning the Monday Night War.

Earlier in the night, though, Edge leapt from a ladder to spear Jeff Hardy from where he was suspended over the ring, clinging to the harness that the titles were suspended from for the TLC match between their respective teams and The Dudleys.

Seventeen years later, we’ve seen comparably crazy spots, but this was on the short list for the most creative, high altitude, and fun unforeseen spectacles up to that point in WWE history, at the climax of a superb plunder-fest of a match.

With another five years or so retrospect, I also maintain the metaphorical impact of this moment. It was Edge taking a leap of faith on the biggest stage possible, toward a career that would eventually find him in main event standing, and the first of the six men involved in this match to make it into the WWE Hall of Fame.

#6. Confetti Rains, WrestleMania 20

I’m a sucker for WrestleMania, as a number of selections from this countdown illustrate, and though I grew up on larger than life characters like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, by my teenage years into my early twenties, I had come to appreciate the more technically proficient artists of the squared circle, not to mention the guys who worked their way up the ranks to arrive in WWE—let alone at the top of it.

I remember the vision of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit celebrating in the middle of Madison Square Garden, the WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion, respectively, to cap the biggest show of the year. It’s the kind of moment when kayfabe is damned in favor of a legitimate feeling, because more than the outstanding matches each man won at that show, confetti raining over the two of them represented a celebration of their unlikely journeys through the business to reach the highest of all highs.

To address the elephant in the room, this moment is permanently tainted by not only the sorrow of Guerrero’s untimely death a year and a half later, but all the more so Benoit’s murder-suicide to follow. It has become a difficult moment to revisit now, and particularly to feel the same heart-warming sentiments about. Just the same, I can’t forget the feelings I had when I first saw this moment play out, and though it has fallen a bit from what would have probably been a top four moment, it still hangs on here at number six.

#5. Mick Foley Takes The Two Biggest Bumps Of His Career In One Match, King of the Ring 1998

One of my favorite elements of pro wrestling—particularly since growing older and having access to tell-all books, documentaries, and podcasts—is less what’s carefully scripted and planned, and more what no booker or talent could ever entirely plan on, but comes to life just the same out of happenstance, necessity, and skill.

Like so many fans, I was in awe of Mick Foley taking a table bump off the top of Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998, and all the more captivated when he took a second bump through the roof of the cage to the mat below minutes later. This moment took on new life for me, though, in reading Foley’s first book a few years later, and learning that he and The Undertaker were both working the match hurt, and saw brawling on top of the cage, culminating in that first big bump as a necessity to cover for their limitations with sheer spectacle. I was all the more fascinated to learn that, at least by Foley’s account—and to my knowledge, he has never wavered and no one has outright contradicted him—the second bump was an unplanned accident.

Wrestlers make unbelievable physical sacrifices for their craft, and for anyone who dismisses them as actors or stuntmen, this is a prime example of how far they’ll go. No one can learn to take a Cell bump—let alone two in the same night— without getting hurt to some degree, but Foley reached new heights in his two most epic falls. It’s a gruesome, utterly unforgettable moment in WWE history.

#4. Ric Flair Rides Off Into the Sunset, The Raw after WrestleMania 24

It’s pretty universally agreed that Ric Flair is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. While he wasn’t necessarily a personal favorite of mine, he’s nonetheless the kind of guy I had to respect all of my years as a fan. As someone whose first wrestling memories come from the mid-to-late 1980s, I’ve never known a wrestling world in which Flair wasn’t a top dog, and even in those early years when I only watched WWE, I could still see Flair featured on Apter mag covers at the grocery store and have some sense of who he was.

I got a more proper introduction to the Nature Boy when he came to WWE for his original stint there, and I started watching WCW regularly right around the time he returned there. So it was that I saw him feud with Big Van Vader and Sting, and then caught up on a lot of what I’d missed from years earlier via VHS and reading about his epic rivalries opposite Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, and Ricky Steamboat.

By 2008, Flair was over the hill as an in ring performer, and I wasn’t necessarily sad about the idea of him not appearing on TV every week. However, WWE playing “Leave the Memories Alone” against a montage of his greatest moments did succeed on pulling on my heartstrings. I’ve always felt a little nostalgic around WrestleMania season, and recognized the magnitude of Flair working one last match with Shawn Michaels at the biggest show of the year.

Flair’s farewell promo on Raw the next night wasn’t everyone’s favorite, but for me it was an example of the stars aligning. It was a WrestleMania weekend with many legends who had worked alongside or against Flair across decades present, and so it felt a lot like reliving my time as a wrestling fan to watch the cavalcade of stars make their way to the ring to pay Flair their respects while he wept openly. I had tears in my eyes at home, too, for this chapter of not only wrestling, but seemingly my own life coming to a close.

#3. Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant, WrestleMania 3

WrestleMania 3 didn’t mark the first or last time Hulk Hogan would body slam Andre the Giant, but it was certainly the most iconic occasion. In a masterstroke of manipulating history and contriving storylines, WWE painted Hogan as a hero, and Andre as the ultimate villain for betraying him going into WrestleMania 3. With a concocted undefeated streak behind the Giant, this was the match that sold out the Pontiac Silverdome for the biggest live crowd WWE would draw until WrestleMania 32 (and there remains some debate regarding those numbers).

In a more objective sense, this was not a great match—worked between a largely immobile, well past his prime monster heel and a hero who always got by much more on his charisma and physique than his technical expertise. Still, it stood the test of time for well over a decade in my mind as the most epic battle in WWE history—before I had the means to watch it again through adult eyes and realize its limitations. Despite its shortcomings as a match, this battle encapsulated so much of what made WWE a success in that critical era of its history, when it came to making larger than life stars and telling stories that captured the imagination.

It all culminated in that slam—the feat of strength and skill that seemed impossible at the time and that offered the most satisfying climax the match could possibly have. The leg drop to follow was icing on the cake for Hogan’s most legendary moment, and one of the visions that most stands out from my childhood fandom. Indeed, seeing that slam via replay or VHS recording marks one of my earliest childhood memories.

#2. Davey Boy Smith Pins Bret Hart, SummerSlam 1992

I was young when Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith headlined SummerSlam 1992, and didn’t have much of stake in either star in the moment. When I saw this match on a friend’s VHS tape, days after it originally broadcasted in the States, I came away with a distinct impression: it was the first time I was conscious of watching a great wrestling match.

Like so many kids of my generation, I grew up with a much greater appreciation for colorful characters and engaging storylines than for work rate or psychology. Long before I had that vocabulary for wrestling, though, I appreciated the British Bulldog vs. the Hitman as a beautiful story told between the ropes—far less a war than wrestling itself as an art, culminating in a photo finish pin with Smith countering Hart’s sunset flip, not to knock out his opponent or force a submission, but rather to lock him into an inescapable pinning predicament.

In rewatching this match more recently, I don’t love it as much as I once did—probably on account of coming to expect this quality of ring work from big matches between talented workers, and partly because I don’t know that any match could live up to my childhood perception of how great this one was. Still, for the sake of celebrating WWE memories, this match and its finish still loom large as all time favorites.

#1. Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth Reconcile, WrestleMania 7

I did not watch WrestleMania 7 live, but rather listened to it while stealing glimpses through a garbled PPV feed because my family didn’t shell out for PPV. Consuming a show like that, it was hard to follow much more than the base line results of who won and lost. Nonetheless, in listening to the emotional commentary to accompany Randy Savage delivering five elbow drops on The Ultimate Warrior, only to still succumb to defeat, only to then have Queen Sherri turn on him, only to reconcile with Miss Elizabeth—well, even with just the audio to work from, I got pretty emotional myself, and couldn’t escape the sensation that I was taking part in a special moment in wrestling history.

My first real time memories as a wrestling fan came from between WrestleManias 3 and 4. As such, it’s no exaggeration to say that this moment paid off all of my first four years of fanhood with not only an epic battle, but my pick for the greatest romantic moment in wrestling history. I was all too eager to see the moment in full via Coliseum Video rental months later, and it sticks with me now as my favorite out of all the favorites WWE has given me across over thirty years.

Thank you for reading this week, and again, to everyone who has been reading along the way these past five years. You can keep up on what I’m doing at my website and keep in touch on Twitter @miketchin.

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The Magnificent Seven, WWE, Mike Chin