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Robert Cartagena is a boxing correspondent for SFBay.ca. He graduated from SF State in 2011 with a B.A. in journalism and spent more than a year contributing monthly articles to The Hudsucker, an online magazine with a blog twist. He has a passion for sports journalism -- particularly boxing -- as well as film reviews. He also enjoys blogging and aspires to be a professional actor one day.

Robert’s Top 5 Favorite WrestleMania Promos

(Image Credit: WWE.com)

(Image Credit: WWE.com)

On April 7, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will hold its annual four-hour extravaganza, WrestleMania.

This year, WrestleMania XXIX emanates from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The main event will feature a rematch from last year’s “Once in a Lifetime” event as The Rock defends his WWE Championship against John Cena.

Other matches billed on the card as of now include Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar in a no holds barred match (where Triple H must retire should he lose), CM Punk’s quest for immortality against The Undertaker and his legendary undefeated WM winning streak and Alberto Del Rio defending his World Heavyweight Championship – as well as America – against the self-proclaimed “Real American,” Jack Swagger.

Around WM time, wrestling fans like to produce videos or written posts about their favorite aspects of the show (favorite matches, memorable endings, greatest title matches, etc.). But I will be taking a different route.

Thanks to some inspiration I received while logged into YouTube one evening, I will present a list of my favorite WM promos.

Promos – more specifically, buildup – are key factors in promoting a WM event. It is billed as “the greatest sports-entertainment spectacular of all-time,” so the event is expected to deliver big time. Unfortunately, this year’s ‘Mania doesn’t have enough buildup to make it a must-see show (which is why I won’t be ordering it). But I’m not here to focus on the best promos of this year’s event.

I’m here to look back at five of my favorite promos that ultimately symbolize what WrestleMania means to me as a wrestling fan.

I’ve been watching WWE since 1996 (the same year I saw my first WM: WrestleMania XII) and have narrowed my choices down to any promos from WrestleMania 12-28.

5. Triple H vs. Randy Orton (25th Anniversary of WrestleMania)

The actual match failed to live up to its hype – let alone, surpass it. The promo, however, made it a must-see because of how extremely personal things got between Randy Orton and Triple H. Each week, Orton viciously assaulted members of Triple H’s real-life family, the McMahons, ultimately culminating with Orton laying out Triple H’s wife Stephanie with a DDT from the middle rope – and sealing it with a kiss.

Billed as a rivalry almost five years in the making, the promo brilliantly highlights how Orton established himself as one of WWE’s most sinister heels (wrestling jargon for villain) in 2009. It ultimately produces a big fight feel, especially towards the end when Triple H joins his father-in-law Vince and brother-in-law Shane to confront Orton and his Legacy brethren, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr.

AC/DC’s “War Machine,” which was used as one of the event’s theme songs, was also included and fit perfectly into the promo. Each time Triple H struck Orton, a flashback to one of Orton’s attacks would then appear, further fueling Triple H’s quest for vengeance and turning him into a war machine.

Whether you’re an Orton fan or not, you have to acknowledge how sinister of a heel he was around that time. His credibility even had me rooting for him to annex Triple H of the WWE Championship. Orton would not win the title until three weeks later at the Backlash pay per view, but his feud with Triple H made him a force to be reckoned with – and from there, “The Viper” would ultimately become one of WWE’s biggest stars.

4. Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIV)

Although his legendary wrestling career was going 35 years strong in 2008, Ric Flair knew that WM 24 would be his swan song. So he wanted to complete his career by facing a friend and fellow all-time great, “Mr. WrestleMania” himself, Shawn Michaels.

It was pretty obvious by watching the promo that Flair would retire. The promo does a great job of hyping up the “Career Threatening match” (as it was billed), but it ultimately pays tribute to Flair’s career. Whether you watched him in AWA, NWA, WCW or WWE, the promo – punctuated by Fuel’s “Leave the Memories Alone” – serves as both an appreciation of Flair’s achievements in wrestling and a farewell to one of its all-time greats – if not, the greatest ever.

The irony in this match is that weeks before the event, Michaels introduced Flair as the first inductee into WWE’s 2008 Hall of Fame class. Despite his reluctance to accept Flair’s challenge, Michaels promised to give his friend everything he had in their instant classic. This promo is also full of pure emotion, highlighting both men’s friendship as well as Michaels’ mutual respect for Flair.

Then comes the infamous moment where Michaels refers to the story of Old Yeller to tell Flair that he plans to put him out of his misery. Flair’s reaction was priceless, and he followed it up with two emphatic slaps across Michaels’ face and this unforgettable response:

“OLD YELLER! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I got your Old Yeller! I SAID, I GOT YOUR OLD YELLER!”

Though Flair ended his retirement when he signed with Impact Wrestling in 2010, that shouldn’t take away from the significance of his final WM match. The emotional battle that took place – combined with the emotional farewell tribute that took place the following night – simply reminds you of why Flair is a wrestling legend and will forever be the “limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun!”

Woooooooooo!

3. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIX)

There’s always something special about a Rock-Stone Cold match – let alone, the buildup to one of these legendary encounters. The buildup to Rock-Austin II at WM 17 was simply epic and culminated in one of the greatest WM main events – if not, the greatest – of all-time. The buildup to their grand finale at WM 19, however, is special in its own way.

Having been in the business for almost seven years, The Rock had pretty much achieved everything – except defeating Austin on the grandest stage of them all. This match wasn’t about titles or money; it was simply personal. The Rock was on a quest to rid himself of the cancer (so to speak) that consumed his soul and beat the one guy who seemed to always have his number. The star power also played a huge role in this promo because both men are undoubtedly two of the WWE’s greatest. The classic run-ins they performed on each other – especially during the buildup for WM 19 – remind you of why their rivalry is so special.

Limp Bizkit’s “Crack Addict” was another perfect choice for this promo and gave the match a big do or die feel. It seems Limp Bizkit music and Rock-Stone Cold promos go perfectly together; in 2001, the band’s hit “My Way” was used for the WM 17 rematch.

There will never be another rivalry like Rock-Austin and even today with names like John Cena and CM Punk, WWE cannot reproduce an epic rivalry of such caliber. Though he was forced to retire shortly after WM 19 due to severe injuries suffered throughout his WWE tenure, Austin and Rock delivered a great conclusion to their rivalry that night in Seattle (and for those who are curious, Rock won the match with THREE emphatic Rock Bottoms).

To quote The Rock, it doesn”t matter how much you love his two previous encounters with Austin – because everybody remembers Act III.

2. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (25th Anniversary of WrestleMania)

“Shawn Michaels… sometimes, it is HELL trying to get to Heaven!”

Those were the eerie, yet emphatic words of The Undertaker as he and Shawn Michaels were on a collision course that would ultimately lead them to the grandest stage of them all.

Michaels was known by many nicknames throughout his legendary career (“The Icon,” “The Showstopper,” etc.), but he has truly lived up to the moniker “Mr. WrestleMania.” At WM 25, he looked to add another WM accolade to his résumé – breaking Undertaker’s undefeated WM winning streak. Michaels said he wasn’t intimidated by Undertaker and proved so by doing some pretty bold things – from holding a funeral for Undertaker to kicking a tombstone with “16-1” engraved on it into a grave. He even dressed up as Undertaker at one point and read an excerpt from the creation story.

Those bold actions made you want to see this match because the more Michaels got under Undertaker’s skin, the more he convinced you that he just may be the man who would ultimately break “The Streak.” Their chemistry was on point throughout the buildup and had you tuning into WWE television each week to see how their feud would further progress. I, personally, couldn’t have gotten any more pumped and excited for such an epic match (and for the record, I wanted to see Michaels add that one emphatic loss to Undertaker’s WM record). The religious angle the feud took was also unique, with Michaels, a real-life born again Christian, representing light and Undertaker representing darkness.

Both men are synonymous with WrestleMania, so it was only fitting that this ultimate dream match brought them together to the grandest stage of them all to produce what many fans considered 2009’s match of the year. I don’t know if you will ever find another wrestling promo full of such intensity and emotion than what Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker produced in the weeks leading up to their epic battle.

I mentioned earlier how Michaels has lived up to the moniker “Mr. WrestleMania,” but based on the performances he and Undertaker delivered on this night and the following year in their epic rematch, they both deserve recognition under a new moniker – “WrestleMania Immortals.”

1. Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII)

Just the beginning of the promo is epic itself. The Undertaker has made his long-awaited return to the ring … when all of a sudden, Triple H returns to confront him. Soon, two legends who defined an era in WWE stand face-to-face in the middle of the ring, and Triple H acknowledges the WM 27 sign, indicating he wants his opportunity to end “The Streak.”

That moment alone should convince you to see the match, but the driving force behind this promo is the use of Mark Collie’s “In Time.” Honestly, you couldn’t have chosen a better song to symbolize what was at stake in this battle. The fact that the promo is presented entirely in sepia gives it a western feel, further powering the story of two men who will come together to ultimately decide who is “The Last Outlaw.”

The lyrics effectively accompany the promo as well, especially the verse “You know your days are numbered. Count them one by one,” which is followed up by highlights of Undertaker defeating some of his previous WM opponents. But when Collie says, “You know your days are numbered,” it ultimately symbolizes that this could be the last hoorah for these two wrestling icons.

There are many memorable lines delivered throughout this promo, but the most emphatic of them all – and the one I always remember whenever I hear this song – is delivered by Triple H:

“You have only one thing left, and it’s ‘The Streak.’ When it dies, YOU DIE! And if I can’t end it, then I’ll die trying.”

I have watched this promo many times and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I watch it, the more I want to pop in my Best Pay Per View Matches 2011 DVD and relive that grueling no holds barred battle. I did debate whether or not to include their “End of an Era” promo from WM 28 on this list because of how epic it is, and I do recommend checking it out one day.

But the “In Time” promo is in a class of its own and simply epitomizes what a WM promo should be.

In addition to the “End of an Era” promo, here are a few notable promos that did not make my list, but are worth checking out:

  • The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania X-Seven)
  • Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (WrestleMania XX)
  • John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 23)
  • Undertaker vs. Batista (WrestleMania 23)
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