In honor of WrestleMania 33, members of the PTBN Staff has gathered to create a series of 33 lists, all dedicated to the rich history of WWE’s grandest spectacle. Each contributor assigned a ranking of 1-10 and votes were tallied accordingly. We will be releasing one list per day, with the final list to be posted on April 1, 2017, the day prior to WrestleMania 33! Be sure to share your feedback with us on social media! You can view the complete series here!
Day Twenty-Two: Best WrestleMania Surprises
Others Getting Votes: Triple H Retains – WMXVI (14); Ultimate Warrior Pins Hulk Hogan – WMVI (13), Hulk Hogan Turns Face – WMX8 (11), Strike Force Explodes – WMV (11), Trish Stratus Turns Heel – WMXX (10), Arn Anderson’s Spinebuster – WMX8 (8), Pete Rose’s Revenge – WMXV (8), Miz Retains – WMXXVII (8), Steve Austin and Bret Hart Double Turn – WM13 (8), Roddy Piper Returns – WMXIX (7), Andre the Giant Punches Mr. Perfect – WMVII (6), Lawrence Taylor Doesn’t Suck, Beats Bam Bam Bigelow – WMXI (6), The Rock Defeats Erick Rowan – WM32 (5), Shaquille O’Neal Wrestles – WM32 (5), Zack Ryder Wins the IC Title – WM32 (5), CM Punk Carries Undertaker to a Great Match – WM29 (4), Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant – WMIII (4), The Rock Defeats John Cena – WMXXVIII (3), Sunny Manages Legion of Doom – WMXIV (3), Brutus Beefcake Helps Roddy Piper – WMIII (3), Rick Rude Defeats Ultimate Warrior – WMV (3), Andre the Giant Turns Face – WMVI (3), Chris Jericho defeats Edge – WMXXVI (2), Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are Both Eliminated – WMIV (2), Fandango defeats Chris Jericho – WM29 (2), Double Doinks – WMIX (2), Ronda Rousey Steps in the Ring – WM31 (1), Cesaro Slams Big Show – WMXXX (1)
10. Triple H Turns Heel – WrestleMania XV (17 Points)
Highest Ranking: #4 (Chris Jordan)
In early 1999, DX seemed to be weakening quite a bit as Triple H was battling through injury issues while the New Age Outlaws had started focusing on some solo work and X-Pac was mired in defending his European Title. And then Chyna abandoned ship, hooking up with the Corporation in a shocking move. The two factions had been warring throughout the winter and it was a major defection. But. at WrestleMania, Triple H was slated to face the Corporate Enforcer Kane and ended up losing the match by DQ when Chyna returned home, exposing everything as a rouse. However, we weren’t done yet as later in the night, we discovered that while Chyna had reunited with Triple H, she hadn’t turned face… because Triple H then turned on his best bud X-Pac, officially blowing up DX and joining the Corporation. The defection would cost X-Pac his European Title to Shane McMahon and officially launch Hunter’s march to the top of the promotion.
9. Sheamus Defeats Daniel Bryan in 18 Seconds – WrestleMania XXVIII (21 Points)
Highest Ranking: #2 (Chris Jordan)
When Daniel Bryan finally broke through and won the World Title in 2011, fans around the internet rejoiced in unison and immediately began hoping Bryan would make it to WrestleMania with his gold in tact. He did. But that ended quickly when Sheamus shocked everyone just settling in and mowed through Bryan to capture the strap in just :18. The fans immediately turned on everything but in the end it was likely the best thing that could have happened to Bryan’s career as the fan reactions and groundswell got rowdier and rowdier, keeping him entrenched in the main event scene until his retirement.
8. Owen Hart Defeats Bret Hart – WrestleMania X (25 Points)
Highest Ranking: #3 (Scott Criscuolo)
With Bret Hart set to wrestle for the WWF Title later in the night at WrestleMania X, it seemed likely that he would dispatch of his brother Owen to open the show and set himself up for a career evening. Add to the fact that previous to this, while Owen was respected as a worker, he was clearly positioned as rings below his brother. Not anymore. A shocking, clean win over the Hitman propelled Owen up the card and established him as a dangerous key player in the WWF. And once Bret won the title to close the night, Owen now had a claim to a title match as well.
7. Hulk Hogan Saves Eugene – WrestleMania 21 (26 Points)
Highest Ranking: #2 (Glenn Butler)
After his falling out with Vince McMahon in 2003, many fans weren’t sure when Hulk Hogan would resurface in WWE again, especially with 2004’s refocusing on the company’s younger, athletic stars. However, when 2005 dawned, the Hulkster reconnected with WWE and the Hall of Fame came knocking. After a rousing speech the night before, Hogan made his presence known at WrestleMania when he made the heroic save for Eugene, running off the evil foreigners and posing for the fans like it was 1985 all over again.
6. Hulk Hogan Defeats Yokozuna for WWF Title – WrestleMania IX (39 Points)
Highest Ranking: #3 (Glenn Butler)
While the reaction to Hogan’s run appearance in 2005 was overwhelmingly positive, it was a much different story back in 1993 when he surprisingly walked out of Las Vegas as WWF Champion. After being purged from the company in early 1992, Hogan made his triumphant return about six weeks before WrestleMania but seemed set to help list the buyrate from a semi-main event position, working in a Tag Team Title match. The company had seemingly moved on and shifted its World Title picture, but that was all reset at the end of the night when Hogan reemerged to help Bret Hart after Mr. Fuji had unloaded salt into his eyes and cost him his strap. Fuji would issue an instant challenge to Hogan on behalf of his new champion Yokozuna and seconds later, Hogan was back on top of the mountain, an unlikely World Champion yet again.
5. Steve Austin Joins Mr. McMahon – WrestleMania X7 (42 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Chris Jordan)
The resurgence of the WWF in 1998 was built on the back of Steve Austin’s epic war with Mr. McMahon and it seemed like they would be heated adversaries for all of eternity. That all changed in the spring of 2001 when Steve Austin’s obsession with becoming WWF Champion led him to do the unthinkable: an alliance with McMahon. The two connived to take the title off the Rock and led to a shocking heel turn for Austin right in the middle of his home state. Whether or not it was a bad idea is for another column (or podcast) but most will agree that for one night, it was a moment that shook up the wrestling world.
4. Ultimate Warrior Saves Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania VIII (47 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Tim Capel & Steve Riddle)
After vanishing from the WWF following SummerSlam 1991, very little was made known of the whereabouts of the Ultimate Warrior. But as suddenly as he disappeared that night, he reemerged with a blazing sprint down the aisle of the Hoosier Dome to save Hulk Hogan from an attack by Sid Justice and Papa Shango. It was set to be Hogan’s final WWF match so having Warrior return to fill the gap made plenty of sense and thanks to the secrecy around the moment, it was truly one of the most shocking moments in Mania history.
3. Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth Reunite – WrestleMania VII (51 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Neil Trama)
With Randy Savage’s active tenure seemingly coming to an end as Ultimate Warrior finished him off at WrestleMania VII, there was one lingering piece of his career that never received closure: a reunion with Miss Elizabeth. So, in a perfect piece of storytelling, there was Elizabeth, hidden in the crowd to watch the career of her former love come to an end. And when Savage’s manager Sensational Sherri added insult to injury with a post match attack, Elizabeth couldn’t help herself and she charged the ring to make the save. From there, the tears flowed and one of WWF’s most iconic duos was reunited and on top of the world in a truly great feel good moment.
2. Seth Rollins Cashes in His Money in the Bank Briefcase – WrestleMania 31 (57 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Brian Bayless)
Heading into WrestleMania 31, the Money in the Bank contract had never been cashed in during the Granddaddy of Them All, and as the stiff war between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar rolled on, it seemed like it would stay that way. But then… Seth Rollins emerged from backstage, case in hand, officially cashing it in after weeks of teases. Even then, it seemed unlikely that Rollins could find a way to escape with the gold given who was in the ring, but he was able to do just that, pinning his former Shield teammate to win the strap and leave the fans sitting in shock over how the show had ended.
1. Brock Lesnar Defeats Undertaker to End the Streak – WrestleMania XXX (68 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Scott Criscuolo, Glenn Butler, Mike Eller, Steven Ferrari & Jason Greenhouse)
Our #1 entry is an overwhelmingly strong choice for the greatest surprise in WrestleMania history. By this point in Undertaker’s career it seemed more and more likely that the Deadman would retire unbeaten at Mania and the fact that he was fighting Brock Lesnar didn’t lead to too many people thinking otherwise. Many assumed that if Taker ever were to lose, it would be to a young up and comer that could use the rub, not an established Beast that really didn’t need the mantle of Streak Ender. As the match meandered on, suffering from an Undertaker concussion, Lesnar eventually did the unthinkable, leading to minutes of silence and shock from all that were watching. It was brilliant storytelling, with no theme music, commentary or other noise other than some boos and buzzing. Whether or not they capitalized on it properly, the moment itself stands among its peers as proof that WWE still can deliver surprise moments when it has all the right pieces in all the right places.