By John Napolitano
Professional wrestling is the product of addiction for masses around the globe. Different fanatics value different aspects of the sport, and various promotions emphasize certain facets of entertainment as opposed to others. For example, fundamental wrestling and technical prowess are esteemed in Japanese adaptations of pro-wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment focuses a great deal on characters, storylines, and entertainment value.
Pro-wrestling, in essence, is theater, not dissimilar from a Broadway production or a movie. When a character arc or rivalry between two characters transcends sport and captivates the audience to their core, there is no comparable sensation on God’s green earth. Regardless of what style of pro-wrestling you enjoy, an imperative component of the business is the video package or vignette.
Video package are a fairly modern concept in pro-wrestling. The renaissance of the digital age has made it miles easier to not only produce video packages but create considerable artistic masterpieces. So what does a video package aim to accomplish? These promos achieve what old-time announcers during the Television Era had to do verbally and that is create a compelling retrospective prior to a huge matchup to generate interest, appeal, and ultimately ticket sales. In addition to being advantageous marketing tools, video packages are more often than not legitimate visual manifestations of art.
In this edition of John’s Jargon, I will rank my top 10 favorite WrestleMania video packages. WrestleMania is the largest spectacle in WWE, which means the packages are historically the most enthralling and gripping in order to promote the most interest. Without any further delay, I present my top 10 favorite WrestleMania video packages.
10. The Undertaker vs. Batista (WrestleMania XXIII)
In 2007, "The Animal” Batista had fortified his reputation as the dominant force on Friday Night Smackdown. Having claimed the World Heavyweight Championship from King Booker at the 2006 Survivor Series, Batista was mowing down all challengers and cementing his legacy as one of the greatest world champions of all-time. Simultaneously, the Phenom of WWE, The Undertaker, outlasted 29 other superstars, including Shawn Michaels, and won the 2007 Royal Rumble Match. With the main event of WrestleMania in The Undertaker’s back pocket, The Deadman had a decision to make. That decision was what world champion would he clash with at WrestleMania XXIII. It was on the subsequent edition of Monday Night Raw that The Undertaker and Batista would engage in an intense stare down, implying that he had made his fateful decision. At WrestleMania XXIII in Detroit, Michigan, we would see the World Heavyweight Champion Batista vs. The Undertaker in a true clash of titans.
9. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVIII)
At WrestleMania XXVIII, the "End of an Era" was upon us. In a rematch from their brutal No Holds Barred contest at WrestleMania XXVII, which saw The Undertaker reign victorious over the Game, it was The Phenom who sought redemption over the 13-time world champion. Despite his hard fought victory in Atlanta, Georgia, the previous year, The Undertaker was not able to leave the ring under his own power, and he looked to avenge the barbaric beating he took at the hands of Triple H. Reluctant to get back in the ring with The Deadman, Triple H had to be drawn into the fray, as The Undertaker took jabs at Haitch's in-ring inferiority to his best friend, Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker continued to expose Triple H’s insecurities so the Greenwich native not only accepted Taker’s rematch for WrestleMania XXVIII, he raised the stakes and demanded it be inside Hell in a Cell. These two icons undoubtedly stole the show in Miami, Florida, on April 1st, 2012.
8. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (WrestleMania XXX)
The Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, saw John Cena’s legacy being compromised by the “Eater of Worlds” Bray Wyatt. After Wyatt and his disciples Luke Harper and Erick Rowan cost John Cena the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble and the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-Views, Cena had no choice but to face this threat head on at WrestleMania XXX. This rivalry consisted of mind games and bizarre vignettes in which Bray Wyatt claimed that Cena was a liar and that he would expose him for the monster that he truly was. The build to this matchup at WrestleMania was not exceptional, but the final video package magic.
7. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania XXIX)
In a match reminiscent of WrestleMania XXVI where the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels put his career on the line, it was at WrestleMania XXIX in MetLife Stadium where Triple H’s career was also at stake against the “Beast Incarnate" Brock Lesnar. Lesnar had been running roughshod through WWE. He defeated and sidelined Triple H at SummerSlam in what was tagged “The Perfect Storm.” In early 2013, Lesnar returned to Monday Night Raw to save his manager Paul Heyman’s job and deliver a wicked F-5 to the Chairman of the Board Mr. McMahon. This was all the motivation Triple H needed to return to the ring and not only avenge the breaking of his arm at the hands of Lesnar, but the attacking of his father-in-law. These two beasts brawled up, down, and all over The Road to WrestleMania. Once Paul Heyman declared that their bout would decide the fate of Triple H’s career, the entire WWE Universe was ready to see these two bulls lock horns.
6. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIX)
By 2003, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin had established their illustrious rivalry as one of the greatest in pro-wrestling history. These two megastars emerged from the Attitude Era as the undisputed faces of WWE and bona fide legends. In 2002, Austin departed from WWE due to a creative conflict, and The Rock was not shy about letting the WWE Universe know what he thought about the Texas Rattlesnake’s act of unprofessionalism. When Austin finally returned, he promised to raise more hell than ever before, but The Rock still had volatile remarks for his long-time nemesis. As WrestleMania XIX approached, The Rock confronted Austin and exclaimed that although he has achieved a great deal of success in his career, he wanted nothing more than to vanquish Stone Cold on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Austin defeated The Great One at WrestleMania XV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston, Texas. The Rock’s inability to beat his ultimate rival at the show of shows ate him alive and was the catalyst for their final clash. In their final installment, The Rock set out to conquer his greatest opponent ever at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington.
5. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XXVIII)
"The Best in the World vs. The Best in the World” was the tagline for the WWE Championship tangle at WrestleMania XXVIII between CM Punk and “Y2J” Chris Jericho. In the summer of 2011, Punk translated his superb microphone skills, unmatched in-ring ability, and massive amount of momentum into the greatest run of his career. After making good on his promise to leave the company with the WWE Championship at the 2011 Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, Punk returned eight days later to not only be the change he wanted to see in WWE but prove week in and week out that he is the best wrestler in the world. In the final weeks of 2011, unusual vignettes began airing on WWE programming, proclaiming that the end of thievery, plagiarism, and the world as we know it would take place on January 2, 2012. This eerie implication came in the form of the returning Jericho, who had not been seen in the ring in about a year and a half. Prior to Jericho’s departure from WWE, he carried the self-proclaimed moniker of "The Best in the World” at what he does and did not hesitate to let everyone know. This new version of Jericho came across as more cold, calculating, and spiteful to the fact Punk was now garnering so much attention and success under Jericho’s title of "The Best in the World.” Matters got even more personal when Jericho attempted to tarnish Punk’s reputation by bashing his troubled family and bringing his legitimacy into question in an effort to psych him out for their match at WrestleMania. Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, would witness history when The Best in the World went head-to-head with The Best in the World for the WWE Championship.
4. John Cena vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XXIX)
The sight of John Cena slumped down on the entrance ramp contemplating his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII, in The Rock’s hometown of Miami, will forever be engraved in the annals of pro-wrestling history. It was losing the “Once in a Lifetime” match to The Brahma Bull that sent Cena’s personal and professional life into a tailspin. The following year for Cena was punctuated by controversy, defeat, and a real-life divorce with his wife. As 2013 arrived, The Leader of the Cenation vowed to turn his misfortunes around by winning the Royal Rumble Match and headlining WrestleMania once again, and win he did. The same night Cena cemented his spot in the main event of WrestleMania XXIX, The Rock ended CM Punk’s 434-day WWE Championship reign and became an eight-time world champion. When The Rock successfully defended his newly won WWE Championship against Punk at the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View, he too reserved a spot in the main event of WrestleMania XXIX. Cena and The Rock were two locomotives on a collision course for WrestleMania, and this time it was for the WWE Championship. Cena admitted that he wanted redemption against his long-time rival and The Rock assured him that no such feat would take place at MetLife Stadium on April 7, 2013.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XVII)
The main event of what is widely regarded as the greatest WrestleMania off all-time, WrestleMania X-Seven, was none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock. For the second time in three years, The People’s Champion was set to defend his WWE Championship against The Texas Rattlesnake. In 2000, Austin was on a hiatus from wrestling to treat a nagging neck injury that he received in 1997. In his absence, The Rock stepped up as the undeniable face of the company, having riveting rivalries with the likes of Kurt Angle and Triple H. When Stone Cold returned to action, the WWE Universe was eager to find out who was the undoubted face of the company. In perhaps the most anticipated return match of all-time, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock II at WrestleMania X-Seven for the WWE Championship was sure to blow the roof of the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
2. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXVI)
The Undertaker and the "Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels had the greatest match in WrestleMania history at the 25th anniversary of the event. These two living legends stole the show on April 5, 2009, in Houston, Texas, but Michaels came up a hair shy of conquering The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. At the 2009 Slammy Awards, Michaels and Taker were recognized for their stellar matchup, and that is when HBK snapped. Obsessed with how close he came to ending the streak at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, Michaels made it abundantly clear that he, in fact, could beat The Undertaker at The Showcase of the Immortals, WrestleMania. When The Deadman declined Michaels’ plea for a second chance to end the streak, The Showstopper became crazed and determined to meet his rival one-on-one once again at WrestleMania XXVI. Michaels’ plan commenced when he entered the 2010 Royal Rumble Match in hopes to face then World Heavyweight Campion The Undertaker in the main event of WrestleMania. Once again, Michaels came up short, and it looked like there would be no rematch between The Icon and The Lord of Darkness. Michaels became so consumed with securing his rematch with The Undertaker that he compromised his tag-team success with long-time friend Triple H and even cost The Undertaker his World Heavyweight Championship at the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View. Now that he was no longer the World Heavyweight Champion going into WrestleMania, due to Michaels’ actions inside the Elimination Chamber, The Undertaker was ready to exact his revenge. He would agree to face San Antonio's own in a rematch at WrestleMania on one condition. If HBK could not end The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, he would be forced to retire. It would be Michaels’ 22-year career vs. The Undertaker’s 17-year undefeated streak at WrestleMania in Glendale, Arizona.
1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXX)
Yes! Yes! Yes! My favorite WrestleMania video package highlights the journey of Daniel Bryan. From NXT to the main event of WrestleMania XXX, this epic retrospective showcases rare footage of Bryan, accompanied by a moving song entitled Monsters by Imagine Dragons. The origin of this storyline took place at Summerslam 2013 when the Chief Operating Officer of WWE Triple H screwed Bryan out of his newly won WWE Championship. Bryan had just beaten John Cena for the title, and all of a sudden, “Mr. Money in the Bank” Randy Orton was at ringside ready to cash in his contract for a WWE Championship match. Just when it looked like Bryan was ready to meet Orton’s challenge head on, Triple H blasted D-Bry with a pedigree and allowed Orton to cash in his contract and claim the WWE Championship. From then on, Triple H and The Authority would reign sovereign over WWE with Orton as their poster child. After months of oppression and controversy, Bryan grew tired of The Authority not seeing the potential that the WWE Universe saw in him. Bryan concluded that the only way they would consider him a legitimate main eventer is if he defeated Triple H at WrestleMania XXX. When Triple H declined Bryan’s challenge, it took a revolution referred to as the “YES! Movement” to persuade Triple H. April 6, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana, at WrestleMania XXX will forever be remembered as the night Daniel Bryan arrived.