A moment in time captured by a camera can speak volumes. At the right moment, whether it be 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/100th, even 1/1000th of a second can sometimes invoke more emotion than full motion video. While in video or even live the moment is fleeting, all you have to see is a photograph of that moment, and it just clicks. I know what you're probably thinking. You're crazy, Eddie Mac. Despite two centuries of evidence to the contrary, I'll give you an example.
This is a picture from this past Monday's episode of Monday Night RAW. That one still frame tells you all you need to know about what may be coming Seth Rollins' way next month. Yeah, he's the WWE Champion and he's been prideful since his arguably ill-gotten win at Wrestlemania, but his challenger, Brock Lesnar, can and will kill him, and Seth knows it. It's like he's walking the green mile in his head before he walks the green mile for real. If you like Seth, you probably fear for the man. And if you don't like Seth, you're probably feeling like Brock: salivating at the thought of his pending comeuppance.
These emotions and many more account for some of these photos that will be highlighted in this week's Cageside Countdown...
The most iconic photos in wrestling history.
Before we get to what you thought were the top ten, here are...
11 honorable mentions.
1. Though he did it seven years earlier, when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III, he cemented himself as the biggest wrestling star of the 1980s and ascended to legendary status. Who cares if the workrate on the match was subzero? This is probably the single most important moment in Wrestlemania history.
2. At Wrestlemania 21, Edge won the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match. The win enabled him to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at anytime in the next year. Edge waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Until the following January. Right after John Cena went through a grinder of an elimination chamber match, Edge handed off his Money in the Bank briefcase to Vince McMahon and made himself a little history, defeating a prone Cena in less than two minutes to claim the WWE Championship for himself.
3. All splashes were more or less created equal in professional wrestling. You had splashes from a standing position, splashes with a running start, and splashes from the top rope. Sometimes even with a twist. Then Wrestlemania X happened. Shawn Michaels' splash from near the top of the ladder onto Razor Ramon remains one of the greatest moments in the event's history. Though Michaels did not win that night, he etched his name and place in wrestling history forever.
4. It was perhaps the most unexpected victory of Wrestlemania 31: Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank and defeats Roman Reigns to become the WWE Heavyweight Champion of the world. Sure he's only 6'1" and 220 pounds—i.e. NOT a Vince McMahon guy—the realization that a kid from Iowa is at the top of the pro wrestling world with 76,000 looking at you is pretty damn cool.
5. The late Dusty Rhodes touched the heart of millions of fans around the world and the hundreds of wrestlers (it might be thousands; he was in the business 40 years) who were lucky to work with him. In October 1985, Dusty, always one of the most passionate men in wrestling, poured it all out as explained to Ric Flair and the home audience what it was like to go through hard times.
6. The Corporate Ministry storyline is one filled with gaping plot holes. Many, many plot holes. Enough to make you question what Vince Russo and company were on when they wrote this thing out. But it does have one highlight that will make this storyline forever memorable, no matter how little sense it made. The reveal of the higher power: IT'S ME AUSTIN! (Aw, son of a bitch!) Seriously, look at the cockiness of this smug motherfucker.
7. CM Punk wrestled arguably the most important match of his life on July 17, 2011 in his hometown of Chicago. With his wrestling future in doubt and the weight of the world on his shoulders, Punk didn't look the least bit nervous. In fact, amidst the cheers and chaos, Punk looked very much at peace.
8. Most every wrestler dreams of that one day when they are standing alone in the ring holding the biggest prize in all of wrestling: the WWE Championship. The hard truth is for most every wrestler, it will be just that: a dream. In 1996, that dream became reality for Shawn Michaels. At Wrestlemania XII, Michaels, exhausted from working the longest match in the history of WWF pay-per-view, stares at his prize. No longer was he longing for it; it was right in front of him. It was now his. Shawn Michaels achieved his boyhood dream. He was the WWF Champion.
9. The tombstone piledriver has always been one of professional wrestling's most devastating maneuvers. For its primary user, The Undertaker, it's about a sure as a one-hit kill as there is in wrestling. He flips you upside down, he drops to his knees, you land on your head, three seconds later it's over. Even in the era of multiple finishers knocking off guys, one tombstone usually does the trick. Except at Wrestlemania 25 when Shawn Michaels became the first person other than Kane (if this is wrong, lemme know) to kick out of the Tombstone. Undertaker's reaction was priceless. In his defense, that's probably how we all felt.
10. Wrestlemania X-Seven is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest shows in wrestling history. It's full of highlights, but one moments perhaps stands head and shoulders above the rest. Jeff Hardy, perilously dangling from high above the ring with the tag team championships under him, gets speared right out of the air--and essentially out of the match—by Edge. This must be what it's like when it comes crashing down and it hurts inside.
11. That Wrestlemania ended with perhaps the biggest WTF since...well, the last Wrestlemania when heel Triple H won the main event. It was common knowledge to even non-wrestling fans that on camera, Steve Austin and Vince McMahon hated each other. They were polar opposites in every sense of the word. Austin: blue collar, Southerner, redneck, foul-mouthed, rugged. Vince McMahon: white collar, city slicker, corporate, polished, clean-cut. They were sure as day never ever gonna get along. Ever. Then for some strange reason, Austin accepted Vince McMahon's help in getting the WWF Championship back. And even stranger, the longtime enemies were shaking hands. Here is where the Attitude Era died. This was wrestling's version of the dot-com bubble bursting. The WWE—and the wrestling world as a whole—was never the same.
I know what you're asking. Eddie Mac, if those photos didn't win, then what did? Prepare yourself because here they are. As voted by you...
the 10 most iconic pictures in wrestling history.
And remember, if your favorite didn't win, that's your fault.
10. When icon meets icon.
This is one of those things that can only be understood if you saw it live or were actually there. But I shall do my best to paint the picture. The date is March 17, 2002. Wrestlemania X8. While the show closed Triple H and Chris Jericho, everyone in the SkyDome (known today as Rogers Centre) knew better: this was the main event. A battle of icons. Hulk Hogan, the preeminent wrestling superstar of the 1980s, taking on the main that would supplant him in the mainstream, The Rock. The prematch staredown, a callback to their first face-to-face meeting a month earlier where the two looked at one another, then to the audience as the crowd chanted for The Rock--then for Hulk Hogan, is one of the great images in wrestling history. All the noise about Hogan nearly ending The Rock's life on the night of the first staredown didn't matter. Nor was it necessary. This was two of the greatest about to do battle with one another. (photo via complex.com)
Paul Heyman warned us: it wasn't a prediction, it was a spoiler. Brock Lesnar was going to beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX. At 9:52pm ET on Sunday, April 6, 2014, Brock Lesnar made international headlines when he did what no one else could: he beat (as later revealed a very concussed) Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX. With the moment yet to sink in for many, the camera panned to this shot above: the Undertaker's no longer unblemished Wrestlemania record. Lifeless on the mat. It was perhaps a telling sign: maybe this was the swan song for the Deadman, a man who had given so much to the wrestling industry. The most enduring character of our lifetime. The one constant in the seas of change. Father TIme had finally caught The Undertaker. Father Time had finally won. (Photo via foxsports.com)
8. Two best friends celebrate amidst the confetti at Wrestlemania XX.
Officially lost to the dustbin of history is one of the most seminal moments in wrestling history: Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, combined nearly 40 years of wrestling experience, together reaching the pinnacle of the industry. An industry that often favors the large and muscular, especially in the uppermost echelon. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were both what would often be termed derogatorily as "vanilla midgets", those who lacked size and "the look" and the charisma to make it in the business. Of course, in a strictly subjective business, sometimes you have to work harder than the rest to stand out. That's what they did. That's why their wins at Wrestlemania meant so much. That's why the emotion in this picture is clearly there. There's also what would become of the two men in the years folliowing this photo: for Eddie, years of alcohol and drug abuse caught up to him. Despite being clean and sober for years, his abuses cut short his life at just age 38 a little over a year and a half later. As for Benoit, the years of head trauma made his brain that of an Alzheimer's sufferer in his 80s. In 2007, he did the unthinkable: he took his own life, but not before he killed his wife and son. Now the picture, nothing more than a memory now, can express two emotions: triumph in the moment, but tragedy following it. (Photo via sportskeedia.com)
7. CM Punk kisses the WWE goodbye.
Earlier I talked about July 17, 2011 being perhaps the biggest night of CM Punk's professional life. In front of a raucous crowd in Chicago and with his future in WWE in doubt, CM Punk made good on his promise to win the WWE Championship. But his second promise nearly didn't come to fruition when Vince McMahon ordered Alberto Del Rio to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase he'd won earlier in the night and make sure the title belt didn't leave with the outgoing Punk. One roundhouse to the ear later, and CM Punk was gone, but he made sure to leave a little something for a distraught Vince on the way out. Punk's "I told you so" reaction says it all. Vince's Plan A didn't work. His backup plan didn't work either. And now, he was taking off like a thief in the night with the company's most prized possession. (Photo via wwe.com)
6. Oh yes he did.
Wrestlemania XXX was for Bryan Danielson, aka Daniel Bryan, a culmination of a life's journey. From wrestling in high school gymnasiums and armories to in front of 75,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans defeating 3/4 of the most dominant faction in WWE in the 21st century. But look closer and it looks eerily like Wrestlemania XX a decade earlier. A man that by all accounts was not supposed to make it in the business (this was even written into canon; you remember Daniel Bryan, the B+ player, yes?) is celebrating amidst a sea of confetti. The culmination of his life's work. That moment of validation. It doesn't matter that his career in the 14 months since has taken a turn south--a turn that some point to being the end of his wrestling career. It almost doesn't matter that the greatest moment of his life is somewhat overshadowed by what happened an hour earlier. A 5'8", 200 pound scraggly bearded young man from Aberdeen, Washington was finally on top of the wrestling world. And this time, nobody was going to take it from him. (Photo via wwe.com)
5. The reaction that spoke for us all.
When Brock Lesnar hit a third F-5 on The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX, we all knew what would happen: The Undertaker would kick out at two. Maybe two and a half. 2.8. 2.9. 2.95 even. Then the Undertaker stayed down for three seconds. Three whole seconds. At a Wrestlemania. Then the bell rang. Then... the world just seemed to stop. Brock Lesnar had defeated The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, something that hadn't been done ever. EVER. The world was left to make of it what it will. Shock. Anger. Disgust. Pain. Disappointment. Jubilation. Credit to WWE's camera crew: they witnessed history, and they wanted to capture fan reaction of it. Disbelief, perhaps more than any other emotion, was the tone of the moment. And this face, the one of Ellis Mbeh, became what WWE.com called "the shocked Undertaker guy", the other face of 21-1. Ellis, if you're reading this, don't worry. It's been over a year later. And I still can't believe it. (Photo via reddit.com)
4. The irresistible force meets the immovable object.
That line by Gorilla Monsoon opened perhaps the most significant wrestling match of the 1980s. Maybe ever. And so did this staredown. 93,000 (or 78,000 depending on who's telling the story--can we just say a lot of people? I mean, we all agree a lot of people were there, right?) people look on as Hulk Hogan, 6'8" and 300 pounds, a man who towers over most men (myself included), has to look up to the mountain that is Andre the Giant, 7'5", 525 pounds. This was the biggest challenge in the world champion's life. Taking down monsters and foreigners was one thing. But this was ANDRE THE GIANT, the biggest wrestling star in the world before Hogan took his place. Oh, and until about a month and a half before the match, Hogan's BFF. It didn't have to come to this, but it must be done. (Photo via usatoday.com)
3. Macho Man and Elizabeth's moment of glory.
Since 1985, Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth were joined at the hip. Over time, they would become pro wrestling's power couple: Savage the talented, yet jealous and paranoid wrestler and Elizabeth, the gorgeous manager and X-factor. At Wrestlemania IV, Savage won four matches in a single night to win the first ever WWF Championship tournament, and with it, he was the first to touch the new WWF Championship belt. (Ok, Hogan actually touched it first, but facts. Good story. That sorta thing?) In a priceless moment, Savage held his right arm in the air, while holding his wife and manager with the other, who had the new championship belt on her shoulder. It was touching indeed. (Photo via wwe.com)
2. Blood from a stone.
Steve Austin was unlike most WWF superstars at the time. Sure he had the talent to tangle with anyone on any given night, but he also had the mouth of a sailor. For the first six months of his tenure, Austin pretty much was restrained vocally, with Ted DiBiase doing the talking for him. It's when DiBiase left for WCW we finally got to see Austin's charisma shine. A month after the breakup, he won the King of the Ring tournament and put himself on the map with his iconic Austin 3:16 victory speech. It wasn't until a few months later he got the attention of one Bret Hart that Austin finally got on the map. The high-water mark of a feud that began during Hart's sabbatical from the company, the two men had but one task: literally beat the other into submission. Late in their Wrestlemania 13 encounter, Bret trapped Austin in the Sharpshooter. The leglock has put most anyone who's been in the hold away. But Steve refused to give Bret the satisfaction that he made him give up. Austin fought with every ounce of his being left in him, exhibited by this photo, as blood gushes out of his head. It became clear to anyone watching: Austin would rather die than say "I quit".
1. Mankind smiles in the face of pain.
June 28, 1998 will be forever etched into the mind of wrestling fans everywhere. The place was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The event was King of the Ring. The match was Hell in a Cell. Less than two minutes in, the fall. Undertaker tosses Mankind off the top of the cell. Sixteen feet down. Many couldn't believe it. They'd thought they'd just seen someone get severely injured... or worse. The match comes to a halt. Mankind has to be stretchered out. The match was over...OR WAS IT? He was having none of that. He broke through the mob, climbed the cell again, and the results were more or less the same. Except this wasn't planned. Undertaker chokeslams Mankind through the cell, and the chair he had brought into the match came down with him. In a span of 15 minutes, he had suffered a concussion, dislocated his left shoulder, bruised some ribs, internal bleeding, numerous puncture wounds, and dislocated his jaw, which was somehow popped back into place. Oh, and he lost a tooth or three. So what does Mick Foley do when he suffers more pain in a short time span than most of us ever will in our lives? He smiles through it all. Of course. That's Mick Foley in a nutshell for you. Regardless of how much he hurt, he made sure to give the paying customer full faith and effort. He was having the time of his life, even if his body was saying otherwise. That's why you, the Cagesiders, have voted this the most iconic photo in wrestling history.
Got any that should have made it? What did we (and by we, I mean you guys) miss?