Skull-cracking elbow drops and ground-trembling suplex slams are only part of what makes WrestleMania great. The WWE’s biggest annual event — considered the pinnacle of “sports entertainment” by its creators (aka “Showcase of the Immortals,” “Grandest stage of ‘em all”) — happens at the intersection of athleticism and theatrics. Equally as thrilling as the high-flying and brutish displays of wrestling tactics are the elaborate ways in which wrestlers make their way from the locker room to the squared circle. As seen in Shawn Michaels’ famous aerial entrance to Randy Savage riding on a Roman sedan, the action starts the second the superstars start marching toward the ring.
To rewind some of our favorite WrestleMania entrances, we enlisted the color commentary of independent wrestling broadcaster and maven of the sport itself, Wesley Bolls.
WrestleMania XII: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels’ ascension from the rafters to the ring at WrestleMania XII is almost as memorable as his WWE title match with Bret “The Hitman” Hart that followed. (And a 60-minute Iron Man match, to boot!) The Heartbreak Kid came flying into the ring via a similar harness and grapple line system that would fail and take the life of his opponent’s brother, Owen Hart, three years later. “Considering Owen Hart would pass away performing a similar stunt, it’s hard to look now at this and not be reminded of that tragic event,” Bolls says. “However, at the time, it was considered the most over-the-top ring entrance ever seen; truly unbelievable.”
WrestleMania XX: The Undertaker
As one of the most iconic characters in company history, The Undertaker returning from the dead was a fairly big deal. That’s just what the man from Death Valley did at WrestleMania XX when he returned to action sporting his “Deadman” persona against his storyline brother, Kane. A group of torch-carrying druids supporting The Undertaker only heightened the dark dramatics of the highly anticipated encounter. “Notable is the look on Kane’s face, as he realized The Undertaker lives,” Bolls reflects on the nearly five-minute entrance. “I am not sure what other wrestler could get away with an entrance of that length, but at no moment was anyone in the crowd not entertained.”
WrestleMania 25: John Cena
There was strength in numbers when John Cena was surrounded by an army of look-alikes on his way to the ring against Edge and Big Show for a triple threat championship match. Cena’s performance at Reliant Stadium in Houston led to his second WWE title, but he and his gang of clones had already won the crowd over. “John Cena has such a magnetic presence; his theme music and energy coming out of the locker room is enough to energize an audience,” Bolls says. “When the army of Cenas made way, the real John Cena ran full speed into the ring, whipping ‘Cenation’ into a complete frenzy.”
WrestleMania IX: “Macho Man” Randy Savage & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
It isn’t often announcers make entrances that some consider the highlight of the pay-per-view. And while Randy Savage being flanked by beautiful ladies and lifted by laboring slaves to the broadcast table on a Roman sedan is incredible, it’s not totally out of character for the wrestler at the time. Things get goofy when Bobby “The Brain” Heenan” follows shortly after riding a camel in reverse. “Two of the biggest personalities in the history of professional wrestling made their entrances in stark contrast,” Bolls notes. “Savage was carried to the broadcast booth like a Roman emperor, whereas Heenan was riding a camel the wrong way.”
WrestleMania VI: Rhythm & Blues
It’s Diamond Dallas Page driving The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, collectively known as Rhythm and Blues, to the ring, along with their manager “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, in a pink Cadillac. Page in a chauffeur’s outfit, two ladies dressed for a sock-hop, Hart holding up a gold record amid the arena’s flashing lights — it’s as beautifully kitschy as pro wrestling gets. “It’s not an easy task to top this entrance. Even the introductions by Howard Finkel are vintage WWE at its best,” Bolls says. “To top it off, the arena is being subjected to Honky Tonk Man’s latest single as they drive to the ring.”
WrestleMania XXIV: Ric Flair
Watching Ric Flair do business in the squared circle is worth the price of admission, subscription, one-time pay-per-view fee, or any other means of watching athletic displays of intestinal fortitude. Flair greeting the WWE crowd, draped in a glittering ring cape, for the final time was a throwback to when wrestlers stepped to the middle of the ring to acknowledge the fans before the match. “The Nature Boy relished every second of that last time he would climb into the ring,” Bolls notes about his retirement match versus Shawn Michaels. “The magnitude of this moment alone propels it into the top entrances of all time, WrestleMania or not.”
WrestleMania III: Andre The Giant
WrestleMania III may be one of the most memorable – it broke the attendance record for a live indoor event in North America (93,173 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit) and Hulkamania ran ultra wild when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre “The Giant.” But it was Andre’s entrance that was unforgettable.
Riding to the ring on what is best described as a parade float fashioned like a miniature wrestling ring, Andre “The Giant” and Bobby Heenan barely flinched as fans showered them with rubbish. Watching the garbage flying, bouncing off the huge wrestler and his cornerman, looking comical in a white tux and tails, you’ll get the itch to attend the next local match in your area. “While this was perhaps the height of the Giant’s fame, his alignment with Bobby Heenan was likely the reason they were being pelted by objects on their approach,” Bolls says. “Heenan’s alliance with the eighth wonder of the world signified a new order in the world of the WWE, but even still it was hard for anyone to truly hate the Giant.”
WrestleMania 34: Charlotte Flair
Being all the way real, female wrestlers were pioneers for all women in sports. The ladies who endured decades of stereotyping in wrestling paved the way for the growing world of women’s sports seen today. As evidenced by her performance versus Auka at WrestleMania 34, Charlotte Flair, Ric’s daughter, is keeping the tradition of ring-generalship in the family.
Flair struts to the ring as only someone with her last name can. All golden, flanked by Roman gladiators while Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” bellows throughout the Superdome in New Orleans. “When your last name is Flair, making an entrance is part of the family business. And dare I say, the Nature boy never had an entrance as majestic as this,” Bolls says. This entrance was for one of the best wrestling performances in WrestleMania history, which makes it all the more important.”
WrestleMania I: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T
The feeling derived from watching these two titans of 1980s culture walk to the ring to “Eye of the Tiger” for the original installment of WrestleMania is what got many hooked on sports entertainment in the first place. The unpredictability of the matches and the random celebrity involvement are what keep the annual event interesting. “Hulkamania was an unstoppable force in the universe,” Bolls says. “There are no fireworks or special effects, just complete electricity in the Mecca of sporting events, Madison Square Garden. This is the peak of the golden era of WWE and must be regarded as the most electric WrestleMania entrance ever.”