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March 30, 2008

Top 20 WrestleMania moments: No. 1

Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XX, 2004)

If I had compiled this list prior to the Chris Benoit tragedy last summer, this match would have been my top WrestleMania moment. And while it still is the most memorable WrestleMania moment for me, the reasons for its significance have become more complex.

First, let’s go back to 2004. Having long been an admirer of Benoit’s talent and work ethic, I was thrilled to see him in the WrestleMania main event, and I was especially excited about the fact that he was probably going to win the title from world heavyweight champion Triple H and I was going to be at Madison Square Garden to witness it live. I’m a big Michaels mark, but this clearly was Benoit’s time. The sellout crowd in New York thought so, too, as it was definitely pro-Benoit even though Michaels also was a babyface.

I have been going to live shows for more than 30 years, and this might be the best match I was ever in attendance for. The three incredibly talented veterans engaged in an action-packed match that featured a combination of wrestling and brawling. To add to the drama, Michaels’ head was busted open, and he bled a gusher. Triple H also was bleeding from the forehead. After Benoit dumped Michaels over the top rope, Triple H grabbed Benoit and attempted to execute a Pedigree. Benoit, however, reversed it into a Crippler Crossface. Triple H stayed in the hold for over a minute before finally tapping out. The crowd erupted, and Benoit immediately began crying.

Eddie Guerrero, who had made a successful WWE title defense against Kurt Angle earlier in the show, then entered the ring and celebrated with Benoit as confetti fell from the ceiling and Benoit’s theme music blasted over the sound system. The two longtime friends had both taken the road less traveled to reach the top of the wrestling world together. Next, Benoit’s family – including wife Nancy and young son Daniel – made their way into the ring, and Benoit hugged and kissed them both. I got chills watching the emotional scene unfold before my eyes.

If only the story could have ended there.

Needless to say, that scene now evokes chills of a much darker nature. Four people (including one child) who were in the ring that night are dead. For that reason, the image of Benoit and his family celebrating in the ring will forever be etched in my mind.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:58 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Top 20 WrestleMania moments


That was a great moment no doubt. Chris was the under dog in the match and probably shocked everyone by winning the title. But seeing Eddie and Chris in the ring at the end holding up their respective titles was one of the greatest memories in wrestling history. I know what you mean Kevin, it does leave a big huge black mark having 4 people in the ring that night no longer with us.

I like your list but as far as moments, how could you not include Sid vs Hogan at WM 7, with the return of The Warrior, as far as moments that has to rank up there. I still get goose bumps when I see the Warrior hit the ring. You had to feel the moment.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: That was one that I considered, but it didn't make the final cut for me. The Sid-Hogan match had a flat ending and the appearance of Papa Shango certainly wasn't memorable. And Warrior disappeared from the sceneagain a few months later.

Great choice for # 1 moment Kev . It was great to see Benoit win the title after long paying his dues . But as you said the images of Nancy and Daniel in the ring in celebration will be etched in our memory forever . And for you to have actually witnessed the event it must seem surreal . All kidding aside I probably payed more attention to "Womans" career than Benoits ,going back to her "Fallen Angel" personna with Kevin Sullivan . That morning in June when it came across the news of the Benoit family's demise , it took with it some of my fond memories from days gone by .

Quick ? Kev, why is it that the WWE guys constantly rag on Hogan. IMO Hogan helped make wrestling. I agree that he didn't do it on his own, but he had alarge part of making it what it is today. Guys like HHH, Flair , Michaels( I know you're a mark) every chance they get the hit this guy in the nads. Arguably without Hogan, there is no Wrestlemania today. Instead of bashing either don't say anything at all or give the guy his due. As a longtime fan it irks me that the guy most responsible for todays guys being around catches all types of heat. I'm probably the biggest Austin fan out here but for Flair to say Austin was better than Hogan, I can't agree. Austin while a better wrestler and very close 1a to Hogan, Hogan to me was the bigger star. Flair is only around because HHH is a mark for him and because he kisses the McMahon's rear ends. I'll give Flair credit he was good and a way better "in ring performer" than Hogan, hell there were way better "in ring performers" better than Hogan, but Hogan was in a class by himself. Say what you want Hogan put butts in the seats, you knew you were in the presence of something special when you went to see Hogan. I just didn't have the same feeling when I paid to see Flair, good feeling but not electric. Those guys can say what they want publicly but privately they know the real deal Hogan is and always be the man. If anyone deserves their own wing it should be Terry Bollea. On another side note Flair again IMO wrong about the best big man in business with saying Big Show was the best. ANDRE end of story. What's up with Flair man with these ridiculous statements. I guarentee if Hogan and Andre (RIP) were there those statements aren't made.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I agree with you on Hogan. He is the biggest STAR not WRESTLER in the history of the business.

That was my #1 as well.

The other one I was mentioning was the TLC 2 match at Wrestlemania X-7, which certainly wasn't a great match, but it had the greatest spots ever. I still mark out every time I re-watch this match at Edge spearing Jeff Hardy when he was hanging from the belts, Jeff's swanton onto Rhyno and Spike Dudley, and Bubba Ray and Matt Hardy crashing through the two tables at ringside... as far as moments, it really doesn't get much better.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I thought about the TLC match, but the reason I didn't include it was because I had a hard time separating the TLC matches from one another. I figured if I had to look it up to remember which was which, it couldn't have been that memorable.

soon khali will rock the kane

The footage of him celebrating with his family was not shown as part of WM XX. I just watched it this weekend, as I decided to watch all Benoit matches.

Dispite your commentary, it's nice that you could see enough to still keep this wrestling moment as it is, and not include it because of something he did years later outside the ring.

This may be a "surreal" moment b/c Chris, Eddie, Nancy and Daniel are all gone, but come on Kevin, there is NO WAY any moment is bigger than Hogan vs. Andre at WM 3. Come on, that moment is synonymous with was the highlight of the BIGGEST WrestleMania MADE WrestleMania the worldwide phenomenon it is today. EVERY time the WWE has a WrestleMania highlight package, it is always on it. No comparison to it. It is the definitive WrestleMania moment hands down. Every other moment pales in comparison.

RESPONSE FROM KE: That list was the 20 greatest moments for me, personally. Having been at the Garden for WM 20, that moment had a greater impact for me, but certainly not for wrestling. Hogan-Andre is the most famous match of all time.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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