They say stars are born at WrestleMania, and those who are already stars, ascend to Superstardom. In professional wrestling, no event comes close to the grandeur of WrestleMania. The entire build up is surreal, and the magnitude of the event can’t be compared to anything else that goes in the wrestling world.
Nothing stays the same, and like everything else, professional wrestling – and the wrestlers themselves need to move on after a certain point. No matter how big you are, there can be no reasoning with Father Time, and everyone eventually bids goodbye to the squared circle.
When one star stops shining, another star picks up its aura, making the most of its opportunity, shining brighter than ever before. In WWE – and particularly at WrestleMania, there have been numerous such instances, when the company wanted the old – timers to pass on the torch.
Today, we take a look at fire such passing – of – the – torch matches in WM history.
#5 The Rock – John Cena II, WrestleMania 29
At WrestleMania 28, The Rock and John Cena met in a match that didn’t exactly leave the fans begging for more. A 30 minute lumbering, slowly paced bout strengthened the argument that both the Superstars shouldn’t have main evented WrestleMania. However, the bigger talking point was The Rock, who had retired many years ago, returned to not only main event WM 28, but also defeated John Cena.
The rematch was booked the very next night, and at WM 29, The Rock and John Cena scratched and clawed their way to yet another ordinary match, but the end was what made the rivalry – and two barely passable matches at WrestleMania – worth the hassle. The Rock, after the second match, raised John Cena’s arm, in a gesture that was seen as him passing the torch to yet another top face.
#4 Shawn Michaels – John Cena, WrestleMania 23
Six years before The Rock dropped the WWE title to Cena at WrestleMania, yet another old – timer put the Leader of Cenation on the pedestal at WrestleMania. Cena and Shawn Michaels faced each other, in what was one of Cena’s best matches of his career.
What made Shawn such a great competitor, was that he dragged his opponents to good – to – great matches. While his match with John at WrestleMania wasn’t one of the greatest ‘Mania matches that the fans rave about a decade later, he still made Cena look like a million bucks.
There was also talk about Michaels not being happy with the match, thanks to Cena no – selling his leg. However, Michaels did put on a good match with John, which was perceived by many as the passing – of – the – torch match between the two.
#3 Every Roman Reigns match over the past 3 years
Every year, WWE tries to book Reigns in predicaments where other faces would thrive. However, every year, it is the same old story – the WWE fans shoot down Roman as WWE’s new top face, sending WWE back to square one.
WrestleMania 31 was supposed to be Reigns’s big moment, but with the fans turning on WWE and the Superstar, they had to go with Rollins at the eleventh hour. At WrestleMania 32, Triple H was supposed to put Reigns over, after an intense rivalry which, for a brief period, saw the fans siding with Roman.
At WrestleMania 33, Roman handed The Undertaker his second loss at WrestleMania. While the loss didn’t carry massive significance like Taker’s first loss did, it was yet another instance when the company tried to put Reigns over, by using yet another legendary Superstar. With Roman set to beat Brock at WrestleMania 34, it would be third WrestleMania running when the company tries the old “passing – of – the – torch” method to put Reigns over.
#2 Hulk Hogan – The Rock, WrestleMania 18
When The Rock and Hulk Hogan met at WrestleMania 18, one was an old war horse, and one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever lace a pair of boots, while the other was one of the biggest stars of that generation. It was no wonder then that WWE booked their WM match as an “Icon vs. Icon” bout.
However, it was also seen as something that should’ve naturally happened. Hogan was past his prime, yet was a big draw. Hogan won the WWE Championship when he returned to WWE, so he still had his star power in tact. The Rock was WWE’s marquee name, and at WM, both men collided, in what was perceived to be the war of generations.
Hogan lost to the match to The Rock, but turned face after the bout.
#1 Hulk Hogan – The Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania 6
The original “passing – of – the – torch” moment in WrestleMania happened at WM 6, when The Ultimate Warrior faced Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster was the biggest name in WWE – and arguably in the world of professional wrestling, and transcended the confines of the business. The Ultimate Warrior was the second biggest force to hit the wrestling world, as the wave of Warriors soon filled up the arenas.
At WrestleMania 6, Warrior walked in as the Intercontinental Champion, while Hogan was the WWE Champion. With both the titles at stake, WWE decided to crown Warrior as WWE’s newest top face, and the Superstar proceeded to beat Hogan for the WWE Championship.
According to the original plans, Warrior was supposed to replace Hogan at the helm, but with his personal relationship with Vince McMahon and the WWE hierarchy crumbling down soon, Hogan retained his spot, while Warrior saw a rocky relationship with Vince breakdown completely thereafter, getting his marching papers from the company.