The Daniel Bryan Era Begins: WrestleMania’s Biggest Championship Changes
It’s official ladies and gentlemen, WrestleMania week is finally upon us! The WWE is working on making this years WrestleMania 30 the biggest wrestling event in its history. For those of us with the WWE Network, we will be able to see behind the scenes footage prior to the event, the full Hall Of Fame Ceremony, and a two hour WrestleMania Pre-Show! Of course, all of us internet fans can not wait until the WWE Championship match, and hope that Daniel Bryan finally gets his redemption.
During the “Occupy RAW” segment a few weeks back, Daniel Bryan forced Triple H to agree to face him at WrestleMania 30. Bryan also added the stipulation if he beats the COO, he will be inserted into the WWE Championship match against Randy Orton and Batista. After months of booking Daniel Bryan poorly, and constantly screwing him, the WWE finally got it right. What better way to put Daniel Bryan over then by defeating Triple H and moving on to victory at the main event of WrestleMania. Hopefully, the long road for Bryan will culminate with him holding the WWE Championship at the SuperDome in New Orleans, with confetti falling from the ceiling, and 70,000 plus fans chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
The scene is set for an epic WWE Championship change at WrestleMania 30, and the beginning of the Daniel Bryan Era. In honor of this, I wanted to take a look back at the biggest WWE Championship changes in WrestleMania history. The following three matches all saw the WWE title switching hands, and were significant in the dawning of a new era in the WWE. Hopefully by 11 pm EST this Sunday, we can add another match to this list!
WrestleMania 12: Shawn Michaels defeats Bret Hart
We can all remember the scene, Shawn Michaels in the middle of the ring on his knees clutching the WWE Championship title, and Vince McMahon on commentary saying “The boyhood dream comes true!” Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart competed for over an hour in this Iron Man Match, and it was executed brilliantly, as these two competitors gave it their all.
The wrestling industry changed for the better after Shawn Michaels was crowned the WWE Heavyweight Champion that night. Michaels was not the biggest wrester in the WWE, but his in ring abilities and his persona are what made him the champion. At that time, most of the emphasis was placed on the size of the wrestler, as you needed to be close to 7 feet tall and 350 pounds in order to be considered the heavyweight champion. Guys like Michaels were considered smaller, were used on the mid-card, and usually their fate would be to become the Intercontinental Champion.
After this win by Michaels, the emphasis was now placed on the wrestler’s in ring abilities and not just their genetic size. If it wasn’t for Shawn Michaels, guys like Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Edge would have never become WWE Champions.
WrestleMania 6: The Ultimate Warrior defeats Hulk Hogan
This match was truly groundbreaking for its time, and I imagine most 10 year old fans were confused on who they should cheer for. Wrestling used to tell the story of the good guy (babyface) fighting the bad guy (heel), in its most simple form. This match was the first to pin good guy versus good guy, and to magnify that, it took place as the main event at WWE’s biggest yearly pay-per-view. Today’s wrestling has changed in part to this match, as it’s not always about good versus bad, but rather the story they tell.
Another unique aspect to this match was that they were both champions, with Warrior holding the Intercontinental Title and Hogan holding the WWE Title. Back then, each champion would defend their title on the pay-per-views. All back stories aside, this is the first time we would ever see Hogan miss his leg drop finisher. Whenever Hogan would hit you with the boot to the face, he would follow that up with his big leg drop, and of course the 1-2-3 pin fall would follow. On this night, Warrior dodged the finisher and was able to hit his splash and pin the “Immortal One.”
After the match, we would see Hogan being a good sport and handing his title to Warrior, and raising his hand in victory. At the time, Hogan didn’t lose matches, but to lose cleanly in the middle of the ring was unheard of. This was Hogan’s way of passing the torch to The Ultimate Warrior, just the same as Andre The Giant allowed Hogan to pin him at WrestleMania 3.
WrestleMania 14: Stone Cold Steve Austin defeats Shawn Michaels
The match that launched Stone Cold Steve Austin to become the top grossing WWE Superstar in its history, and arguably the biggest star of all time. WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross proclaimed at the end of the match that the “Austin Era has begun!” Austin’s reign as the top guy in the WWE, saw its greatest business period ever. Pay-per-view buy rates and television ratings were at an all time high, and his merchandise sales broke all the records.
The match saw an injured Shawn Michaels gut it out, in what was thought to have been his last match, as he was set to undergo career ending back surgery. The other major factor was the special guest enforcer, Iron Mike Tyson. WWE brought Tyson because Vince McMahon knew the amount of media attention he would garner. Leading up to the match, mainstream media outlets like ESPN were showing highlights of Monday Night RAW because of Tyson’s appearances. That match had more mainstream people watching world wide than any other.
Mike Tyson did end up playing a role in the match, as he made the 3-count, when the WWE official was knocked out of the match. Tyson double crossed Degeneration X, and aligned himself with Austin, and held his hand up in victory. “The Texas Rattle Snake” and “The Baddest Man On The Planet” stood in the ring together triumphantly as WrestleMania 14 ended.
The way the wrestling business boomed after Austin’s victory makes it the greatest WWE Championship change at WrestleMania. There are a lot of similarities with the way the crowd reacts with Daniel Bryan, as there was when Steve Austin was rising to the top. This Sunday at WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan could make history, and be added to the list of epic WWE Championship changes.
How do you guys feel going into WrestleMania 30, and where’s your confidence that the WWE will crown Daniel Bryan the new WWE Champion? Please share your thoughts and opinions below in the Comments Section. Don’t forget to follow PWMania and me on Twitter @PWMania and @Enzo_Marino, and tweet me with any feedback, thoughts or anything else wrestling. Lets keep the wrestling discussion going!