Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns was an unforgettable match at WrestleMania 39, but is it one of the biggest 'Mania moments of the last ten years?

It goes by many names. The grandaddy of them all, the showcase of the immortals, the SuperBowl of sports entertainment. I’m of course talking about WWE’s biggest wrestling event of the year: WrestleMania! As my fellow wrestling nerds and I get set for WWE’s historic 40th edition of the once-a-year spectacle, I want to take a look back at some of the biggest and most memorable WrestleMania moments from the last 10 years.

Since its inception in 1985, WrestleMania has long provided the stage for the culmination of WWE’s biggest feuds and storylines. Considering the company’s staggering weekly programming schedule, WrestleMania is arguably the closest thing they have to a “season finale.” Everything comes to a head at WrestleMania, often-times with explosive and unforgettable results.

But it’s not just the in-ring action that attracts millions of fans to WrestleMania. The event is also known as a cross-cultural phenomenon, often bringing in celebrities and megastars from all corners of the cultural zeitgeist. From entertainers like Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T in the 80’s, to sports icons like Floyd Mayweather, Ronda Rousey, and Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski, many of pop culture’s biggest names will often find themselves at WrestleMania one way or another. Recent years have even seen the likes of world-famous, multi-platinum-selling artist Bad Bunny and the ever-controversial influencer Logan Paul competing on the ‘Mania stage.

WrestleMania’s presentation has always been unique, but in recent years it’s expanded from a one-night spectacle to a two-night, weekend-spanning extravaganza. The first iteration of a two-night WrestleMania came in 2020, mainly as an adjustment to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The show has been featured on two nights ever since, with fans and performers across the board praising the decision. I mean, who doesn’t love an entire weekend of wrestling?! (On second thought, don’t answer that)

My love of professional wrestling is certainly no secret at this point, and honestly, I could gush about it until I’m blue in the face. But for the sake of brevity, I’ve narrowed down the top 10 WrestleMania moments from the past 10 years that I believe qualify as the biggest moments in the event’s groundbreaking history.

  • 10. The Hardy Boyz Return - WrestleMania 33

    Matt and Jeff Hardy are one of the most popular tag teams in pro-wrestling history. The two brothers from North Carolina made a career of throwing caution to the wind with death-defying stunts, especially on the grandest stage of them all. Their eventual departure from WWE (Jeff in 2009, followed by Matt in 2010) came as a disappointment to their fans, and their subsequent struggles with drug and alcohol addiction left many in doubt that we’d ever see the Hardy Boyz back in WWE.

    However, after spending years battling their vices and re-inventing themselves in and out of the ring through various promotions, the beloved brothers made their shocking return to WWE in 2017, under aptly extreme circumstances.

    The two were announced as surprise last-minute entrants into a multi-tag team ladder match for the WWE tag team championships. The entire Orlando stadium shook with thunderous applause when the opening beats of Team X-treme’s iconic entrance music hit. Matt and Jeff would later go on to win the match along with the tag team gold they’d held many times over. It was a feel-good moment for the ages and one of my personal favorite moments in WrestleMania history!

  • 9. Kofi-Mania Runs Wild - WrestleMania 35

    Kofi Kingston, a perennial fan favorite in WWE since his debut in 2008, found himself in the middle of a grassroots campaign to see him win his first ever WWE Championship. Kofi had been a stalwart in the company up to that point, with many feeling like he had never received his due in the form of a world title victory.

    After putting on career-defining matches on the road to WrestleMania 35 in 2019, Kofi finally reached the pinnacle of his career in a ‘Mania match for the gold against Daniel Bryan. With his New Day compatriots Xavier Woods and Big E cheering him on, Kofi achieved the impossible, delivering a swift Trouble In Paradise to the sneering face of Bryan and getting the 1-2-3.

    Kofi’s win was inspirational for many fans and superstars across the board. Seeing a hardworking, universally beloved ring veteran finally get his due on the WrestleMania stage is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. Long live Kofi-Mania!

     

  • 8. The Firefly Fun House Match - WrestleMania 36 (Night Two)

    The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 forever changed WrestleMania as we knew it up to that point. As I mentioned earlier, that was when WWE decided to turn the hallmark wrestling event in a two-night spectacle. But the initial outbreak created a unique challenge for the company. Without a live crowd in attendance for the first time ever, WWE had to think of creative ways to keep WrestleMania entertaining for those watching at home.

    Luckily for them, “creative” was Bray Wyatt’s middle name. On night two of WrestleMania 36, Wyatt and WWE legend John Cena faced off in a unique (to put it lightly) match known as the Firefly Fun House match.

    Look, there’s nothing I can say that could adequately describe this fever dream of a match. Wyatt and Cena swung for the fences in this cinematic style match-up, and the results are unlike anything I have ever witnessed in my nearly two decades as a wrestling fan. Rest assured though, it’s absolutely awesome. I implore you to seek it out and witness the madness for yourself.

  • 7. The Boneyard Match - WrestleMania 36 (Night One)

    The Firefly Fun House match wasn’t the only cinematically shot fight of WrestleMania 36. In early 2020 the cocky AJ Styles had run his mouth a little too much. This put him in the cross hairs of the Undertaker, who is known as the Phenom of WrestleMania (more on that later).

    After weeks of endless mind games between the two, Taker and Styles decided to settle their rivalry once-and-for-all in a Boneyard Match. In a delightful surprise, Taker decided to shed the undead wizard persona that night, arriving instead as his leather-clad, motorcycle-riding alter ego known as the American Badass.

    In an all-out brawl involving shovels, gravestones, and ghostly druids, Undertaker was finally able to shut AJ Styles up once and for all. If you haven’t seen this match yet I won’t spoil the ending for you, because it has to be seen to be believed.

  • 6. First Ever Women's Main Event - WrestleMania 35

    Kofi Kingston wasn’t the only superstar to etch his name in the history books at WrestleMania 35. That night also saw the first ever women’s WrestleMania main event, with “The Man” Becky Lynch and “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey challenging Charlotte Flair for the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships.

    The fans were witnessing history as the three athletes laid it all on the line in a tough back-and-forth contest. At the end of the night, Becky Lynch triumphed over her two opponents, hoisting both titles up in a euphoric closing shot that will go in the annals of wrestling’s greatest moments.

  • 5. Return Of The American Nightmare - WrestleMania 38

    When Cody Rhodes left WWE in 2016, no one would have predicted the meteoric rise he would go on in the following years. Well, no one but Cody would have predicted it.

    In betting on himself and taking the independent scene by storm, Cody honed a new moniker that would go on to propel him to the top of the industry. Paying homage to his father, the late great American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Cody became the American Nightmare.

    This proved to be the change his character desperately needed. As the American Nightmare, Cody rose through the ranks in various promotions before taking part in the creation of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) in 2019.

    However, as the years went on, it seemed Cody had outgrown the very promotion he helped create. After a shocking exit from AEW in early 2022, fans speculated that he would be a surprise return at that year’s WrestleMania.

    This was a rare case where rampant fan speculation proved correct, as the prodigal son made his triumphant return to the company he felt had let him down year’s prior. His match with Seth Rollins was an instant classic as well, with Rhodes picking up the pin in decisive fashion.

  • 4. Rhodes vs. Reigns - WrestleMania 39

    As amazing as Cody Rhodes’ WWE return was at WrestleMania 38, it was the following year’s ‘Mania where he proved himself as a main event level talent. After winning the 2023 Royal Rumble months prior, Cody set his sights on the dominant WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns.

    Cody was determined to do what so many over the past 3 years couldn’t do: defeat the Tribal Chief for the highest prize in wrestling. And on the grandest stage of them all, the American Nightmare seemed poise to knock Reigns out of his island of relevancy.

    But, in a shocking turn of events, Roman managed to eek out a victory against Rhodes after interference from The Bloodline. Every fan’s collective jaws were on the floor when the ref counted the final pinfall. Sadly it was not meant to be for Rhodes that night.

    Fortunately, WWE has the chance to correct the course for this year’s ‘Mania, with Rhodes and Reigns squaring off in a rematch for the ages in the main event of night two. Finish the story, Cody!

  • 3. The Heist of the Century - WrestleMania 31

    Before his Tribal Chief character ever took shape, Roman Reigns spent much of his early solo career as a babyface (wrestling term for “good guy”) who fought for the good in WWE. Unfortunately for him, this meant fighting to overcome the destructive force known as “the Beast” Brock Lesnar.

    Roman punched his ticket to the main event of ‘Mania earlier that year by winning the 2015 Royal Rumble. He was good, but was he good enough to take on possibly the most imposing force in WWE history?

    It was a tough, brutal contest which saw Lesnar dominate the Big Dog. But late into the match Reigns began to show signs of life, fighting with everything he had to conquer the Beast. But once both men were beaten to bloody pulps and lying prone in the middle of the ring, out came Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins.

    As the Money In the Bank holder, Rollins earned the right to challenge for a world championship at anytime throughout the year. Ever the opportunist, Rollins waited until late in the fourth quarter of Roman and Brock’s all-out brawl. For the first time ever, the briefcase was cashed in mid-match, making it a triple threat for the world title.

    One curb stomp later, and Rollins walked out with the title in a shocking upset, coined by commentator Michael Cole as the “heist of the century.”

  • 2. The "Yes!" Movement - WrestleMania 30

    Ten years ago, at WrestleMania 30, WWE fans around the world joined in celebrating the rise of Daniel Bryan. After over half a year of battling the powers that be of The Authority, the scrappy underdog fought through endless adversity to win the undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30.

    What made Daniel Bryan’s rise to stardom so intriguing was that the story beats seemed to echo real life sentiments toward Bryan from the upper WWE brass. Throughout the decades WWE had a reputation for granting opportunities to performers that fit a certain image. While the muscle-bound giants often enjoyed countless title matches and elevated stories, the smaller, technical wrestlers historically had to work extra hard to secure their spot on the card.

    So imagine everyone’s surprise when a small, bearded vegan covertly became one of the most beloved stars the WWE had ever seen. Fans couldn’t get enough of Daniel Bryan since his debut in 2010. After winning everyone’s hearts, it was undeniable that Bryan belonged in the WrestleMania main event.

    The entire road to this triple threat match is rife with lore that I don’t have the time to get into right now, but it all culminated in a spectacular showing from the popular superstar. In one night, Daniel Bryan pulled double duty by defeating longtime nemesis Triple H in a one-on-one match, earning him the right to face Batista and reigning champion Randy Orton later in the closing match of the show.

    Bruised and battle-worn, Bryan entered the match facing even more adversity than ever before. But in a miracle upset, Bryan grabbed Batista in his famous “Yes”-lock, shortly after getting the submission victory that earned him the world championship to the elation of fans worldwide.

  • 1. The End Of The Streak - WrestleMania 30

    As incredible and triumphant as Daniel Bryan’s win was, it still takes 2nd place as the most unforgettable WrestleMania moment of the last ten years. Taking the top spot, which should be to no one’s surprise, is the shocking and deeply upsetting end of the Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania streak.

    Since debuting in late 1990, the Undertaker had amassed an undefeated ‘Mania streak of mythic proportions. Taker was 21-0 heading in to WrestleMania 30, and seemed poised to make his latest challenger Brock Lesnar another name in his long list of victims.

    Once the bell rang, however, the match told a different story – one that wrestling fans don’t often see from Taker’s WrestleMania bouts. Most of Taker’s matches at this particular event were back-and-forth affairs, with both he and his competitors trading blows in equal measure before he clinches the victory as only he can.

    But this particular match didn’t adhere to those same story beats. Throughout the match Lesnar showed off his incomparable strength, power and ferocity against the Phenom. Try as he might, Taker couldn’t get enough momentum to vanquish his foe.

    Finally, after a fourth F5 finisher, Brock covered Undertaker for the pin, with the ref counting one…two…THREE.

    You could hear a pin drop in the Supderdome in that moment. Fans everywhere stood mouth agape in disbelief as “21-1” flashed on the jumbotron. The Undertaker had finally been defeated at WrestleMania. The streak would now, sadly, rest in peace.

    It was a moment that made time stand still. Not only is Taker’s first ever WrestleMania defeat the biggest, most shocking WrestleMania moment of the past decade; it may very well be the most colossal ‘Mania moment EVER.

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