Several WWE Superstars have faced and defeated their wrestling role models in the past few years.
Many of these performers were wrestling fans growing up. They watched and admired legends like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker. While many never had the opportunity to work with their sports entertainment role models, others were lucky enough to share a locker room with their adolescent heroes.
That didn't always matter, however. Even while being in the same company, several wrestlers never got the chance to work with their wrestling idols onscreen.
But? A select few actually defeated their childhood heroes in singles competition. Here are five WWE Superstars who defeated their wrestling role models.
#5. RAW Women's Champion Becky Lynch
RAW Women's Champion Becky Lynch grew up idolizing Lita. Although the Hall of Famer retired several years before The Man was signed by Vince McMahon, she recently returned to challenge Lynch for a RAW Women's Title match at the Elimination Chamber premium live event. Despite giving in an impressive performance, Lita lost to Big Time Becks.
After the match, the triumphant RAW Women's Champion stated that going head-to-head against her childhood hero was special.
"It was, it was [special]. There were a lot of emotions coming into this match and now there is a lot of emotions after leaving this match. My childhood hero [Lita], the person I looked up to in a match that I honestly never thought is going to happen. And when she challenged me, there were so many conflicting ideas in my head that yes, this is something that a 13-year-old me would have loved but now, it is right before WrestleMania. And if anything happens, if I slip on a banana peel and fall, I could lose the most important thing in my life to my childhood hero and how badly would that affect me," she said in a backstage interview.
Lynch will now face Bianca Belair at WrestleMania 38 with the gold on the line once again.
The EST of WWE earned her title shot after defeating Nikki A.S.H, Doudrop, Liv Morgan, Rhea Ripley, and Alexa Bliss to win the women's elimination chamber match at the Elimination Chamber premium live event.
#4. WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was lucky to cross paths in WWE with his childhood hero, Ric Flair. The Heartbreak Kid and The Nature Boy have also shared the ring many times as both partners and opponents.
Michaels and Flair went head-to-head six times throughout their wrestling careers. The Showstopper came out on top in five of these bouts. His only defeat against his wrestling idol came at Bad Blood in 2003.
The two Hall of Famers last competed against each other in 2008. They squared off in a Career-Threatening Match at WrestleMania. The bout witnessed one of the most memorable moments in WWE history when Michaels uttered the words, "I'm sorry... I love you," before hitting his idol with the Sweet Chin Music to end Flair's WWE career.
In an interview with the Stone Cold Podcast in 2015, Michaels spoke about that emotional moment.
"I told him that I loved him and I can’t say it without getting weepy half the time. You have to understand, the guy who was in the ring with him, I was in there in body but inside it was the 15-year-old kid who watched him every Saturday. It was, 'Thank you for giving me this honour, and I love you for it,'" he said.
In an interview with talkSPORT a few years later, The Nature Boy revealed more details about that historic moment.
"Yes [it’s my favourite WrestleMania moment], by far. And that wasn’t rehearsed, that wasn’t even discussed. That was just raw, pure emotion. He knew that I didn’t want to leave. I think Vince knew that too, but it was time. I wish that I had never wrestled again and that was my last match," he said.
The Heartbreak Kid retired from in-ring competition in 2010. In November 2018, he made a one-off return to the ring as he teamed up with his DX partner Triple H to defeat The Brothers of Destruction at Crown Jewel. He is currently a coach, producer, and writer in NXT. Meanwhile, WWE recently released Ric Flair from his contract.
#3. SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair
Although Charlotte Flair initially did not want to become a professional wrestler, she admired what WWE Hall of Famers Trish Stratus and Lita did inside the squared circle when they main-evented RAW for the first time in 2004.
Fifteen years later, The Queen had the opportunity to share the ring with The Diva of the Decade. In 2019, Stratus returned to the promotion to challenge Flair for a match at SummerSlam.
Speaking to GameSpot, The Queen described the idea of facing The Diva of the Decade as "crazy."
"It's just crazy. And now that woman that I was watching as a senior main event [and] make history... Now I'm walking into SummerSlam [with] her being the greatest of all time and me going, 'No, I'm the greatest of all time,' it's just crazy. I mean, I don't have another word," she said.
Although Stratus gave in an impressive performance, she lost to Flair. In a backstage interview after the match, The Queen showered the seven-time Women's Champion with praise and called her a "hero."
"It doesn't get any bigger than that. I mean, the women today, of my generation, grew up wanting to be Trish Stratus and Lita, and do what they did because they main evented RAW. But the real hero of tonight was the mom with two kids at home and the full career, who has been gone for what, ten years? No, she's the real winner and the hero," she said.
Stratus has not competed since her defeat against Flair. Meanwhile, The Queen is currently active on SmackDown. She now holds the SmackDown Women's Championship and will defend her title against Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 38.
#2. Former WWE Champion Bryan Danielson
In 2000, Bryan Danielson signed a developmental contract with Vince McMahon's company. The American Dragon then reported to WWE's developmental promotion at the time, Memphis Championship Wrestling, where he was trained by William Regal.
Danielson developed a special bond with the English wrestling legend. In his book "Yes! My Improbable Journey To The Main Event Of WrestleMania," Danielson disclosed how Regal influenced his career.
"[Regal] ended up being the most influential person in my career (...) Since I was trying to switch to a less risky style, Regal was the perfect teacher for me. He would go into detail explaining the finer points of basic holds, and why certain counters make sense and others dont, given the intuitive visual intelligence people have about the human body... the way Regal thought and talked about wrestling transformed the way I thought and talked about it. It made sense to me... Even though we were only in Memphis a couple of months together, Regal became my mentor, and he has remained my mentor ever since," he wrote.
Danielson shared the ring with his mentor on multiple occasions. He even defeated Regal in singles action seven times and only went down in defeat twice.
The pair last went head-to-head in November 2008 when Danielson defeated Regal on WWE Superstars.
The American Dragon left World Wrestling Entertainment last year to join AEW. Meanwhile, WWE released Regal from his contract last month.
#1. WWE Hall of Famer Kane
Although The Undertaker and Kane were on-screen brothers and worked together for many years in WWE, the Hall of Famer revealed that The Deadman was his role model.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, The Big Red Machine disclosed that he had learned a lot from working with The Undertaker.
"Within the world of WWE, Kane and the Undertaker are the Brothers of Destruction, and 'Taker was even willing to share some advice along the campaign trail. His advice was to work hard and stay true to what I believe. He was always a great role model of mine. Night in and night out, he gave everything he could for the audience. That's what I have always done in wrestling," he said.
The Undertaker and Kane have gone head-to-head many times and have exchanged victories.
Kane's last win over The Phenom came in 2010. He defeated his on-screen brother in a Buried Alive match at Bragging Rights to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
Kane had not competed in WWE since January 2021, when he participated in the Royal Rumble match. He is currently the Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
Meanwhile, The Undertaker retired from in-ring action nearly two years ago. He last competed at WrestleMania 36 when he defeated AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match. WWE recently announced that The Deadman would join the WWE Hall of Fame this year.
Which of these showdowns between a younger star and their hero was the best one, in your opinion? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
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