This should go without saying in a sport where everything is predetermined to perfection with the purpose of eliciting a reaction from a crowd, but a little creativity can go very far. In fact, it can separate the meat from the fat in WWE, a company whose star power is usually based on a grappler’s ability to stand out and entertain. Or at least that used to be the case before superstars like Zack Ryder got punished for daring to use his creativity to get over with the masses. But if ever there were an event on the WWE calendar where creativity is most encouraged, it’s WrestleMania, and for today’s WrestleMania Week countdown, I’m taking a look at those moments where wrestlers left quite an impression before the bell even rang. Whether because of the overall concept, a breathtaking visual, or even the inclusion of a special guest, these entrances are some of the finest in the WrestleMania archives.
#10) Rhythm & Blues at WrestleMania VI
With a team name like “Rhythm & Blues”, I would expect to see a team with style reminiscent of Boyz II Men or even En Vogue to walk through the curtain. Or since it’s the 80’s, maybe The Temptations. But nope, it was just Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine impersonating The King of Rock & Roll with Jimmy Hart by their side. I didn’t think Valentine had it in him to go along with something like this, but when you’re in a team with an Elvis impersonator and a former record producer, I guess you have no choice. But at least it gave the previously old-school grappler a chance for a flashy WrestleMania entrance. For their appearance on WrestleMania VI, they made the pink Cadillac that HTM sings about in his theme music a reality by being driven to the ring in one driven by a pre-fame Diamond Dallas Page and accompanied by a couple of dancing ladies sharing the passenger seat. They were originally there for a live musical performance that was eventually busted up by The Bushwackers, but after that flashy entrance, they could’ve just put the PRNDL (trademark: London Tipton) in reverse and let that go down in history as a standalone moment.
#9) The Rock at WrestleMania 32
For all that flack WrestleMania 32 gets, is hard to argue that it at least delivered from a spectacle standpoint. I know this because three entrances from the the show made it on this list, and another one is in the honorable mentions. This is the first, and it’s just a solid reminder of how big The Rock has gotten since managing to convince fans to stop wishing death upon him. Dwayne Johnson is a huge box office attraction now; between movies like The Fast & The Furious franchise, Moana, and why not throw Pain & Gain in there too, he’s surpassed Hulk Hogan in terms of being a wrestler who crossed over to mainstream popularity. Because of this, just coming out to the ring at WrestleMania with no theatrics is officially small potatoes. The whole world tuned in to see you be one of the most entertaining aspects of the show. So how does The Great One make an arrival? By bringing along the famed Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and brandishing a huge flamethrower. Some have labeled this entrance a little hokey, but I will do no such thing. If ever I reach a level where I’m as cool, successful, popular, and virtually untouchable as The Rock, I’d probably walk into WrestleMania with like an action hero too.
#8) Triple H at WrestleMania XXX
Here’s where I have to start invoking the “one entrance per wrestler” rule. If anyone loves making an entrance to WrestleMania feel like an event, it’s the former Connecticut Blueblood. Under that gimmick, his WrestleMania peak was having Ultimate Warrior “ruin” his WrestleMania debut. But after becoming “The Man With Three H’s”, he made no secret to the fact that he wanted to be seen as “The King”. Bring on years of him reminding us of that fact by way of memorable WrestleMania arrivals. He’s had Motörhead perform for him twice and I’m pretty sure Lemmy forgot most of the lyrics both times. He’s channeled Conan The Barbarian, smashed some glass with a sledgehammer, been burned by ice, promoted a Terminator sequel that bombed, and led Stephanie Repulsa and an army of demons to the ring even. But I’m going with the one that included Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss pulling a DDP and CM Punk with pre-fame WrestleMania cameos. As has almost become the norm with Hunter, he also wore a skull helmet for extra badass points, assuming skulls still do that for some people. Did it ever again after Avril Lavigne? But yeah, this entrance was certainly memorable.
#7) Rusev at WrestleMania 31
Maybe you don’t have to be a total main eventer to have a special entrance on WrestleMania. Rusev was not yet at that level going into WrestleMania 31, but he at least looked to be on his way. Of course we all know how that turned out. Rusev lost to John Cena because at the time, Big Match John was damn near unstoppable, especially to younger talent just looking for a chance to get over. But it wasn’t all bad for the Bulgarian Brute because even before the bell rang, he was one of the night’s biggest winners from a spectacle standpoint. Already we’ve seen wrestlers emerge in the WrestleMania stage in a pink Cadillac and on a throne, but now things are about to get even more surreal. Name one other wrestler we’ve seen roll into WrestleMania on a giant army tank aside from Rusev? Following The Ravishing (Florida-born) Russian Lana in a crisp white suit leading an army down the ring with a giant Russian flag, the then-United States Champion created one of the show’s biggest talking points by way of his grand militant arrival. It’s stuff like this that made us realize Rusev’s star potential; too bad Vince himself seems to have forgotten about it since then.
#6) The New Day at WrestleMania 32
And now for the single weirdest thing a wrestler has ever emerged in, on, or from at the Show of Shows. First of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that The New Day didn’t stay a gospel-inspired outfit for long. Nothing against elements of the church; my grandfather’s a reverend after all. But fans just weren’t into it when it debuted, maybe because unless you’re a dark, mystical figure talking about doom and gloom and dreams, the whole “preaching” thing seems mostly out of place in wrestling. However, when Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E were allowed to just let loose and have fun, it made for a fun all-around time for everyone. I don’t think we knew that WWE would eventually turn them into more shameless merch shills than late-2000s DX, but here we are. Actually, they may have surpassed DX in that regard given that The New Day actually inspired WWE to create their very own real-life breakfast cereal. Booty-O’s, which I bet 90’s DX would also totally name their own cereal, took on a life of its own and at WrestleMania 32, the three men emerged from a giant box of the stuff dressed like Dragon Ball Z characters. It’s was creative, unexpected, and fun, three things that are supposed to be what makes pro wrestling so fun in the first place.
#5) Undertaker at WrestleMania 29
You know some memorable entrances are ahead if The Undertaker isn’t #1 on the list. Despite that, the owner of perhaps the most iconic and chilling entrance in all of pro wrestling history was a given to make this list. Given my “one entrance per wrestler” rule, however, only one could be selected. At XIX, he rode to the ring with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst performing “Rollin'” in person; that was pretty cool no matter how intolerable Fred Durst is. His resurrection a year later after being buried alive was more amazing visually. The WrestleMania XXX casket rundown was some pretty solid foreshadowing for a result that didn’t happen. But a year earlier on WrestleMania 29, the Deadman walked past a misty blue pool of mysterious black hands, reaching up to pull the Deadman down into the abyss only to fail as his continued his road toward inevitable immortality. You want a symbolic display of your WrestleMania dominance? That’s how you do it.
#4) Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 32
Snoop Dogg is cool. Even after being featured on a song (technically two) from Big Time Rush, Snoop Dogg is cool. OK, so Big Time Rush was kind of a funny show, but still, shouldn’t Snoop Dogg collaborating with a Nickelodeon boy band instantly kill his cool? Apparently not, because Snoop has retained his cred over the years and remains one rapper that everyone loves. (Except Trump and most conservatives apparently.) So it was a fortunate convenience that his cousin Sasha Banks was making her WrestleMania debut (as a wrestler and not an extra) the same year WWE decided to give him a Celebrity Hall of Fame ring for his admittedly few WWE appearances. Alongside Raven Felix, who here sounded like if Becky G was singing while completely out of breath from jogging, Snoop rapped a new version of the Women’s Championship combatant’s entrance music as she made her way to the ring. Fans already loved The Boss, but being able to say Snoop Dogg, one of the hip-hop OG’s, was part of her WrestleMania entrance, shined a brighter light on the young star.
#3) CM Punk at WrestleMania 29
Hope you’re ready for more live music because we got it for you here! The thing about live music at WrestleMania is that the best way to ensure it’s a hit is if it has a purpose, hence why the Kid Rock and Diddy performances at 25 and 29 were so cringe and why the recent Pitbull & Flo Rida news was so derided. They were like WWE’s attempts at a Super Bowl Halftime Show, but with artists who either wrestling fans don’t care about or who peaked a decade earlier. But with wrestler entrances, you can usually get away with it. The thing is that Living Colour is a band who peaked in the late-80’s. Wanna know how I know that? Their biggest hit won them Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989. Yet here they were at WrestleMania 29 in 2013, performing the song for the entrance of CM Punk, who was headed into battle on the one memorable match of the show. And it worked. In fact, it absolutely rocked. This is CM Punk’s final WrestleMania, but at least he went out with a dope match AND a dope entrance.
#2) John Cena at WrestleMania 25
Because that’s what people were asking for: more John Cena‘s. So many John Cena’s running around. Imagine if there were more Nikki Bella‘s running around; who needs one look-alike sister when you can have multiple clones who mate with the John Cena clones and create little Baby Nena’s to take over the world? I wonder which Nikki would get a ring first. Anyway, back on topic. The “one entrance per wrestler” limitation bites John Cena in the rear of his jean shorts since prior to 29, he always went all out with the WrestleMania entrances. He even had CM Punk participate in one. But alas, I can only pick one of them, and even with the one I picked, he ended up on here multiple times because in one of WM25’s very, VERY few actual highlights, we witnessed the Million Cena March. Multiple Cena’s lined the long WrestleMania ramp to the sound of “Basic Thugonomics”, waved their hand in front of their faces rendering all of them temporarily invisible in theory, and signaled the arrival of the man who was about to win yet another World Championship. Cena can smash windows, call in choirs and marching bands, and have MGK sing his praises all he wants, but nothing is topping the Cena Brigade.
#1) Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII
“Never” is a strong word and we’re regularly advised in oxymoronic fashion to never say it. Justin Bieber even built his entire early career on it. However, this is indeed an entrance the likes of which will never be seen again. After this method of theatricality claimed the life of Owen Hart in 1999, rides from the rafters are a thing of the past, especially in WWE. But for one night a few years prior, it helped Shawn Michaels ride right into the WrestleMania highlight reels. Before landing in there for winning the title over an hour later, I mean. HBK, ever the showman, strapped himself up to a zipline and glided his way to the ring. This is smart for two reasons: one, he wouldn’t have to exhaust his legs before the match by walking and two, he’d make sure that when the name “Mr. WrestleMania” was stamped on him, it was well-earned in more ways than one. WrestleMania XII may not have been a great night for the Hitman, but for The Showstopper, it was one that would live in infamy, and the entrance, an early example of flash at WrestleMania, was a big part of it.
+ Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 – This entrance just missed the cut, being bypassed by the pink Cadillac. Shane O’Mac made sure his return to WrestleMania was something special by dropping money from the sky and bringing his sons along to dance with him in his attire.
+ Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania XXX – If this was a list of the best WrestleMania musical performances, this would have certainly made it on. Bray Wyatt certainly put Mark Crozer on when he chose his song for his entrance music and notched him this performance slot.
+ Steve Austin at WrestleMania 25 – They say “don’t drink and drive”, but since Austin likes to do both, even having a cupholder for beer in his ATV, he can somehow get away with it. I’ll tell you what, it makes for one wildly entertaining WrestleMania appearance.
+ Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III – Even though the image of Andre The Giant being slid down to the ring in a tiny mobile ring has become an iconic one in WrestleMania history, if you watch WrestleMania III, you’ll notice they did that entrance for everyone that night.
+ Edge at WrestleMania XXIV – This entrance is special for me solely because it’s the one time Edge made the long walk into the main event of WrestleMania, and hearing “Metalingus” blare through the speakers at that point in the show gave me goosebumps.
+ Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25 – Shawn Michaels hasn’t always been a saint, but in the name of mind games, he was the image of one when he made his way down from the rafters at WrestleMania 25. He loses points for not wrestling in the all-white gear.
+ Undertaker at WrestleMania XX – The resurrection of the classic Undertaker, laying the Biker persona to bed and bringing back the druids and Paul Bearer (temporarily, anyway) was the beginning of a new era that I think we’re all more than grateful for.