Tuesday, November 28

9 wrestling matches that broke into the mainstream of pop culture

If you are reading this article or any of the other articles on this site, there is a good chance that you are a die-hard fan of wrestling. As die-hard fans, we all know and love the wrestling business and have differing opinions on what makes it so great. But the industry itself to non-fans can sometimes be a bit of a mystery.

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That’s why it’s crucial when the biggest fights break out of the wrestling bubble and into the mainstream of pop culture. Sometimes that means leading celebrities doing their part, too. Other times, the enmity is so great on its own that it breaks through the WWE landscape.



9 Floyd Mayweather vs. the big show

Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show WrestleMania 24

When the biggest names in sports enter WWE, it makes immediate headlines. In 2009, the biggest sports star was Floyd “Money” Mayweather, and he inadvertently punched The Big Show in the nose for real. That had Show running faster than he probably had in years to legitimately hurt the guy (and possibly do a lot more than hurt) until Shane McMahon calmed him down.

Not only was it a great SportsCenter moment, but it also helped seal the deal that this match would be one of the biggest main events in WrestleMania 24.

8 Hulk Hogan vs. andre the giant

WrestleMania 3 Hulk Hogan vs.  andre the giant cut out

First, they collided at one of WWE’s first stadium shows at Shea Stadium. But the entire world witnessed cultural icon, Andre The Giant challenge Hulk Hogan for the world heavyweight title “at WrestleMania,” as Andre had put it in the Piper’s Pit in preparation for their epic fight in wrestling 3.

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Despite being the third event, this is really where WWE as we know it started. The match became instantly iconic and photos of the look down and body shot live on in immortality. To this day, it’s the biggest moment in wrestling that almost every non-fan knows when they hear the term WWE.

7 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mike Tyson

stone cold steve austin vs.  mike tyson cropped

Nearly a decade before Floyd Mayweather came to town, the world’s best-known boxer was also The Baddest Man on the Planet.

The night that Vince McMahon wanted to announce that Iron Mike would be part of wrestling, would take place one of the crucial scenes of The Attitude Era, when Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupted the presentation “waving” Tyson. The uproar that followed helped sell WrestleMania 14 and really push The Attitude Era into full gear.

6 stone cold steve austin vs. mr mcmahon

Stone Cold Steve Austin stuns Vince McMahon at MSG Cropped

Starting with the altercation with Mike Tyson and Austin’s subsequent victory against Shawn Michaels, a new era began in WWE. It was clearly Stone Cole’s time and apparently the world was ready to cheer him on. Except for his boss, Mr. McMahon hated that guy and everything he stood for.

However, McMahon also loved the money Austin was making for him, so he was a Catch-22. There wasn’t a fan in the world who didn’t want to be Stone Cold and crush his boss every week.

5 The rock against John Cena

The Rock Vs John Cena WrestleMania 27 Cropped

In 2002 two interesting events occurred in WWE. The Rock became a part-time worker, leaving WWE to make his bones in Hollywood. Meanwhile, John Cena debuted on SmackDown.

It took about a decade to bring these two together, but when it happened, John Cena was the biggest star in wrestling, and The Rock was easily the biggest superstar on the planet in any genre. Considering the first match was announced a year ago, it made every time Rock was on Raw a must-see TV.

4 Eric Bischoff vs. jay leno

Eric Bischoff Vs Jay Leno Trimmed

With the world of entertainment so segmented these days, it can be hard to understand this, but in the mid-’90s, Jay Leno was the undisputed king of late-night talk shows.

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While many die-hard fans lament the fact that Jay Leno was able to lock Hollywood Hogan in a wrist lock, when Hogan and Eric Bischoff invaded the leno show, it was a marquee moment. No one has taken over the whole show before.

3 Muhammad Ali vs. antonio inoki

Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki cropped

In a recent podcast episode of talk is jericho, The Ocho, Dave Meltzer and Japanese wrestling journalist Fumi Saito spoke about the life and legacy of Antonio Inoki. They explained that it was not just Antonio Inoki, but that he was “Antonio Inoki”. The entire world knows the legacy of Muhammad Ali. These two collided in what is considered the first MMA contest back in 1976.

While the match was a bit less than fans expected, the event took the world of fight sports by storm and has retroactively become a huge part of history.

2 Hulk Hogan vs. Loud Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper Vs Hulk Hogan Halloween Havoc 1997 Cropped

While wrestling 3 is truly the first to “feel” like WrestleMania, the origins of WWE as we know it are steeped in The Rock And Wrestling Connection, and the blood feud between Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Their war permeated all of pop culture until the first wrestling, The War To Settle The Score, and all over the burgeoning MTV station. He also transcended companies as well. Once Hulk Hogan left for Hollywood, Roddy was one of the first to try to make him pay for the piper.

1 Jerry the King Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman

Jerry Lawler vs.  Andy Kaufman cropped

With everything catalogued, quantified, dissected and studied, it’s hard to imagine a world where people still believe that wrestling is one hundred percent real. That’s why it came as such a shock to see comedy star Andy Kaufman fighting women.

He was then pinned down and nearly paralyzed by a Jerry Lawler Piledriver. His confrontation with David Letterman immediately hit the headlines, putting the King of Memphis on the all-time pop culture map and making Andy Kaufman wrestling’s biggest heel.

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