Whatever WWE pays their video production crew is simply not enough. Sure, even with a million (sometimes billion) dollar tax bracket, they only have so much money to split between the McMahons, the on-screen talent, and the behind-the-scenes workers we don’t see, but these video editors deserve the world for the miracles they can work, especially with the dodgy writing in modern day. The video production crew have the power to hype fans up for matches through just a few snips, maybe a few filters, and some decent music added in. Their talents are perhaps best displayed on WrestleMania, as it should be since the biggest show of the year needs to look it’s absolute best. For today’s WrestleMania Week post, pre-match video packages are getting the spotlight. These are the video packages that deserve a rewatch even after the match already ended; the video packages that may even make a match seem rewatchable after a person has already seen it a million times just because of how well they build them up.
#10) Undertaker vs. Batista at WrestleMania 23
An underrated championship match deserves an underrated video package. After The Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels in what many consider the greatest Royal Rumble finale of all time, he’d punched his ticket to the WrestleMania main event. Or at least the middle of the WrestleMania card with a championship in-sight. Yup, this was back during that time period where the Royal Rumble winner almost never actually main evented WrestleMania. Can you believe they actually had Matt Striker and Donald Trump on later than this match? But from the build-up, this match very well could have gone on last. I’ll talk about the match soon enough, but the video package for it was tasked with showing Batista’s dominance over the roster at the time and making him appear as legitimate competition for the man who’d gone 14 years without a loss on the grandest stage. Inversely, it was also meant to show why Batista should be so intimidated, and in doing so, they got me hyped for this match more than I thought they would.
#9) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21
It’s this video package that makes you realize how parallel the careers of Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle actually were. Kurt Angle legitimately acquired the Olympic gold medal in men’s freestyle heavyweight wrestling that he’s humbly bragged about for so long in the year of our lord “Macarena”, 1996. Also in 1996, Shawn Michaels had the pro wrestling world talking with both his entrance and his Ironman Match triumph at WrestleMania XII. Given that even when experiencing a mainstream drought, pro wrestling is still more buzzworthy than actual freestyle wrestling, obviously Shawn Michaels was what the cool kids were talking about, meaning HBK was probably the coolest wrestler around. But what about Kurt Angle, who in kayfabe felt insulted that anyone would dare claim Michaels is greater than him? That was the tale told in this video package, which highlights both men’s accomplishments and strengths between the ropes and display the tension between the two since Royal Rumble 2005 greatly, and set up their classic encounter nicely.
#8) Kane vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania XX
Oh, silly, silly Kane. Don’t you know it’s impossible to kill a Deadman? When the Big Red Machine had buried his brother at Survivor Series 2003, the same night he’d dispatched of Shane McMahon in a brutal Ambulance Match, he really thought that his brother was gone for good. Because apparently, he hadn’t watched the last number of times Undertaker was buried alive, or even that time he himself burned him alive in a casket, only to come back more powerful than ever. The reason given? Because the second he traded in a trenchcoat and hat for a motorcycle and a bandana, he’d sold out to humanity and became a stone-cold fraud. Cue months of Undertaker haunting his brother with special effects ranging from lighting to fog to a levitating ring, all of which are captured in the video package for the match. Paired up with ominous, haunting background music, the revival of the feud between the Brothers of Destruction was painting a the portrait of something you did not want to miss.
#7) Mr. McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XIX
Even though I was real young when this feud took place, I’d already made up in my mind that Vince McMahon was the one who created Hulkamania and Hulk Hogan was the one who blew it up and made it what it was. Or maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, they both had a hand in making Hulkamania a phenomenon. But since the relationship eventually went south, especially with Hogan ditching Vince for WCW and testifying against him in the infamous steroid trial, these two elderly icons of the business got into a huge disagreement over who deserves full credit for it. And they made sure to include all of that in the video package for the match, narrated by the always reliable Mean Gene Okerlund. Also included was the gruesome sight of McMahon jabbing a pen repeatedly in Hogan’s face and making him sign the contract for the match in his own blood. Sad reflective music twinkled throughout, giving the entire feud a bittersweet feel, but ensuring a satisfying ending for somebody.
#6) Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 32
Here’s a rare example of WWE using a pop song correctly. Sure, you’ve heard “Confident” by Demi Lovato everywhere over the last year or so; the Democratic National Convention, commercials for PayPal, advertisements for movies with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. But it fit the most in this video package. Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch were ushering in a new era of women’s wrestling in WWE, refusing to be held down or take no for an answer and always pushing themselves to break barriers to the best of their abilities. They were strong and inspirational women, which is exactly what the lyrical content, overall sound, and vocal delivery from Lovato (which they drowned out for some reason) conveys in this song. Mash it up with clips of the three women involved being certified badasses in the ring, as well as clip of the women who came before them and carved their name into history, and you have a sweet video package for the best match on WrestleMania 32.
#5) Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI
We go from radiating confidence and change to radiating paranoia and obsession. Shawn Michaels had his heart set on handing Undertaker his first WrestleMania loss, and since his match with the Deadman was so highly praised the previous year, why wouldn’t he think that he could finally accomplish it if he had one more shot? Only one problem: Undertaker denied him the opportunity, so Shawn did everything in his power to make it happen and it only drove him madder and more insane with every failure. Even Teddy Long got his chin kicked in because of Shawn Michaels’ obsession with defeating the Undertaker. Eventually, he got his match and it was pretty solid, but the video package, set to the somber sound of “Running Up That Hill” by the band Placebo and filtered with grainy overlay, that captured all of this definitely deserves a mention for how well they show what Michaels’ obsession was doing to him and why it was so important that he get this rematch.
#4) The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 29
Boy, did this match blow. While the first Cena/Rock match can get a pass for at least being a first time match we never thought we’d see, for having a heavily invested crowd, and for not being too badly wrestled a contest, this second match was just pointless. An overdone finisher fest that felt incredibly forced if anything. It was like the Michaels/Undertaker thing, but not as interesting. However, this match did have one thing going for it: Civil Twilight. I don’t know if this band was ever really a thing; I saw their video for “Letter in the Sky” once on MTV2 and then I don’t recall them getting any kind of exposure from the mainstream music press ever again. But as it turns out, that very song is effective in making a person feel something. That somber music that builds into an explosive wave of sound is just too beautiful to ignore. So much so that it could even get you excited for a live-action Disney remake disguised as a wrestling match. They also showed how badly Cena was affected by his worst year in WWE yet and why he blames his loss to The Rock for that. At least they went in with some story arc. But yeah, Civil Twilight was the star of the show here.
#3) Evolution of The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII
Does The Miz even listen to rap music? I’m not really sure. But if he does, I don’t know if I would be that surprised by it given that he has one thing in common with the 50 Cents, Kanye Wests, and even Rae Sremmurds of the world: he’s a chronic bragger. Haters told him that he would never, ever make it to the pinnacle of WWE, and even though his WWE Championship reign is widely regarded as a joke, he STILL held the thing for a number of months. Because of this, he succeeded at what he’d oftentimes been told he’d fail at, so naturally, the naysayers kept piling up. But you know what? Who cares? They can say what they want? He hit the big time. So whoever got the idea to use Nas’ 1999 anthem “Hate Me Now” to chronicle his rags-to-riches story is a genius. The rap hit plays in the background as Miz sits in a control room and watches back his journey from Real World goofball to celebrity extraordinaire through the WWE. His back to the camera, you have no choice but to watch and accept the grind. This was unconventional since it was a video package for one main event performer rather than the entire match, but since doing so would spotlight The Rock’s comeback more than either Miz or Cena, plus it turned out so great and was such a highlight on a completely terrible overall show, it was a risk that worked.
#2) The Rock vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven
The popular music playlist does not end here. We’ve already seen heard from Disney-star-turned-pop-hitmaker Demi Lovato and one of hip-hop’s most influential in Nas, but keep in mind that pop and hip-hop weren’t always WWE’s go-to genre. Back in the Attitude Era, it seemed like WWE couldn’t go wrong with a nu-metal track, and for WrestleMania X-Seven, they went for the band most associated with the subgenre: Limp Bizkit. Laugh at nu-metal as a genre all you want, but songs from the formerly-popular genre were a perfect fit for World Wrestling Federation programming. It’s a raw, loud, aggressive, in-your –face style of music for an era of wrestling that featured raw, loud, aggressive, in-your-face action. The theme for what’s considered the greatest WrestleMania of all-time was also the soundtrack for the widely praised video package of The Rock vs. Steve Austin. The People’s Champion and The Texas Rattlesnake were on top of the world as the two biggest stars in all of pro wrestling, and their match was definitely gonna be a hard-hitting affair. Ironic, however, that they choose a Limp Bizkit song that’s not even that heavy completely through; but then the hook kicks in and it’s game over. And even on the verses, the guitar sounds sick over WWF clips. As video package music, it works so well.
#1) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H at WrestleMania XXX
No video package in WrestleMania history, and maybe even all of wrestling history, gives me goosebumps more than this one. And it includes another popular music artist, this time being alternative rock outfit Imagine Dragons. Well, they soundtracked underground stuffed animal fights before; may as well slip a song to the wrestling crowd. We’re already on the right foot since Bryan Danielson was dubbed the American Dragon back in his Indy days. The Authority, however, wished to do the exact opposite between 2013 and 2014. Their only wish was for the goat-faced dragon to either go away or stay away from the main event. But as the video package illustrated, you can’t keep a good animal hybrid wrestler down. Clips are shown documenting Bryan’s rise from a stellar Indy darling to a perceived nerd who avoids meat and television like Superman avoids kryptonite to the eventual acceptance into the heart of wrestling fans worldwide, only for a Triple H Peidgree to stop the Imagine Dragons track dead for a fall down to hopelessness. But then the music comes back in again and the thunderous determination of Bryan and the fans rises up again. Explaining this video doesn’t do it justice. Just watching it and letting it run through your body how emotionally moving this video is will certainly do the job and get anyone onboard the YES! Movement.
+ Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV – The official #11. “I will NEVER retire!” Ric Flair proclaimed in late 2007, only to end up retired at the following WrestleMania after a moving video package showing his career and the love he and Shawn had for each other.
+ Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. McMahon at WrestleMania 22 – The only thing this video was missing is a few shots of Mr. McMahon with CGI horns sticking out of his not-hairpiece. It was the whole point behind him making the newly-reborn HBK miserable, right?
+ Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 – Mickie James was nuts in her early days, and this video package was a greatest hits compilation of everything she did to make Trish uncomfortable. And yes, the fans cheered her on in the match. That’s even more nuts.
+ Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIX – They say never meet your heroes. Well, not only did Chris Jericho meet his hero; he got both an awesome match and an awesome video package chronicling his past fandom out of it.
+ Undertaker vs. Ric Flair at WrestleMania X8 – I think I like this video more because of the build-up rather than how well done it was. Man, was Biker Taker a savage or what. He really wanted to push Ric Flair‘s buttons and goad him into a match, huh?