5 stellar WrestleMania matches that were a Superstar's first Mania match
On April 8 in New Orleans, World Wrestling Entertainment will put on its 34th annual spectacular known as WrestleMania. At that event, based on what we know of the card so far, at least nine superstars will be making their first appearance on wrestling's grandest stage.
While performers like Finn Balor, Asuka, The Revival, Cedric Alexander, Shinsuke Nakamura, and even Stephanie McMahon (among others) have had storied careers in WWE, NXT, and around the world, they will compete at WWE's answer to the Super Bowl for the very first time in 2018.
With any luck, their WrestleMania debut will go as smoothly as the Superstars in these matches, five of the greatest contests ever to feature a Superstar's first WrestleMania appearance.
#5 Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar, WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania XIX
The WrestleMania Debut
Brock Lesnar, who went from interrupting a hardcore match during the WrestleMania X8 fallout edition of Monday Night RAW to main eventing his very first WrestleMania just over a year later.
It's Memorable Because
There are three big reasons why fans loved this match at the time, and still talk about it 15 years later.
First is the fact that Kurt Angle was injured to the point of barely being able to move; stemming from his broken (freakin') neck in the 1996 Olympic Games, Angle had been plagued with neck problems his entire career, which he was mostly able to ignore. Those problems only intensified as Angle's star grew, and as his workload increased from that larger spotlight; former head of creative Bruce Prichard pointed out on his podcast last week that, after this match, Angle stood in the shower completely unable to move under his own power for hours.
Second is the technical prowess both Angle and Lesnar showed; both men were highly accomplished amateur wrestlers on their own and developed a high-impact technical pro style. Suplex City was still 12 years away, but Lesnar still used a wide variety of impressive power moves to throw Angle all over Seattle, and Angle played the sneaky heel and master of submissions to perfection.
Mostly, though, this one is remembered for its final sequence, wherein Lesnar attempted a Shooting Star Press (which he had managed to hit numerous times in Ohio Valley Wrestling) and landed scarily on his head; Lesnar reportedly did not remember anything after climbing the turnbuckle and had to be coached through an improvised finish in a total blackout.
The botched ending aside, this is a technical classic on a very underrated WrestleMania.
How It Ranks
WWE ranks this one 42 on its "100 Best Matches to See Before You Die", while Dave Meltzer gave it a near-perfect ****1/4. WWE also ranked it the 16th greatest Wrestlemania match ever in a 2017 list. The feud would win Feud of the Year for 2003 from Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and its sequel on a 2003 SmackDown (in an Iron Man Match) would win Match of the Year.