In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
JBL vs. Finlay (Belfast Brawl)
CM Punk vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho vs. Carlito vs. MVP vs. Mr Kennedy vs, John Morrison (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
Batista vs. Umaga (Battle for Brand Supremacy)
ECW Title Match: Kane vs. Chavo Guerrero
Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
Beth Phoenix & Melina vs. Ashley & Maria (Playboy BunnyMania LumberJill Match)
WWE Title Match: Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H (Triple Threat Match)
Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show (Win by KO)
World Heavyweight Title Match: Edge vs. Undertaker
This would be a historically significant WrestleMania for a variety of reasons, including the first ever ECW Title match to be held at the event. The reigning champ Chavo Guerrero would defend his title against Kane, who had earned the title shot in a Battle Royal dark match before the show went on air.
To add to the prestige of the match, the ring introductions were carried out by ECW General Manager (!?), Armando Alejandro Estrada. The champion makes his entrance first, but when Kane is announced the stage remains empty. Instead, ‘The Big Red Monster’ silently sneaks in the ring behind Guerrero and nails him with a Chokeslam. A three-count later and we have a new ECW Champion.
The first ever ECW Title match at WrestleMania lasts all of 10 seconds. If you ever wanted a metaphorical representation to sum up how Vince McMahon feels about ECW, this is it.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, it’s that man Shawn Michaels again, stealing the show at yet another WrestleMania.
This time around, HBK faced off against Ric Flair, in a match that would end the Nature Boy’s career should he lose. The match was fairly emotional from the very beginning, coming just twenty four hours after Flair’s tearful Hall of Fame induction. Everyone in the arena (and those watching at home) were pretty confident they were about to witness the end of a legendary career, but nobody was quite prepared for just how that end would come about.
Both men obviously have huge respect for each other, and they both gave their absolute all in this match. Due to his age and physical condition, Flair may not have been at his technical best in the ring, however this was still the best he had looked in years, and any faults in his work were seamlessly covered by HBK’s in-ring proficiency.
The story told in this match was utterly compelling from start to finish. Flair played the role of the legendary gunslinger, with one last great match in him, while Michaels was the reluctant villain; unwilling to give anything but his best out of respect for his wrestling hero. Nevermind the WrestleMania X-8 between Hogan and Rock, this was Icon vs. Icon.
After a grueling battle, the match came to a heart-wrenching finale. Flair had the resistance drained out of him and, as Michael’s ‘tuned up the band’ one last time; the 16-time World Champion had all but accepted his fate. With a tear in his eye, Michaels mouthed the words, ‘I’m sorry, I love you,’ before delivering Sweet Chin Music for the victory. Both men embraced before Michaels left the ring to give Flair his moment in front of 80,000 fans.
This match would go on to be crowned Match of the Year 2008, and is remembered as one of the most emotional moments in WrestleMania history.
WrestleMania XXIV had a particularly strong card, which managed to keep fans entertained throw-out. There were a couple of dull moments (as there almost always is), but for the most part this was an excellent show.
The Money in the Bank Ladder Match continued to impress for a fourth consecutive year, while the marquee bout between Floyd Mayweather and Big Show was a great spectacle. Both title matches were enjoyable as well, with Edge versus Undertaker being particularly fantastic.
In the end though, the night belonged to Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, as he bowed out of the ring with great style and emotion (even if he did wrestle again afterwards for TNA).
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