3. Demon Disapproves
Batista was already on his way to bigger and better things when he was Evolution’s silent muscle, and it was in that form that he started to catch fire. The sight of the brawny, stoic “Animal” in pinstripe suits and cartel leader sunglasses made him look undeniably cool, as did the way he would calmly undermine Triple H’s authority. There was just something about Big Dave in the eyes of the fanbase, and one moment put him over the top for good.
Batista played master manipulator Helmsley for a fool when he tricked him into thinking he was going to choose a title match with JBL over The Game at WrestleMania 21. That was before Batista’s thumbs-up crept downward, in concert with his sudden stern glare. The fans erupted at this simple gesture, and cheered even louder when he put Helmsley through the conference table. Batista became his own man then and there, as well as a man of the people.
2. Mad Bomber
While one could certainly argue that this moment has been over-mentioned to the point of utter fatigue, there’s no denying how it made people feel in the moment. CM Punk took a seat on the Monday Night Raw stage, and turned an era of anodyne, factory-formulated pro wrestling upside down with one of the most eloquently-delivered monologues that has ever been spat through a wrestling microphone.
Punk called out the WWE machine and system, while lambasting the overseers that allowed pro wrestling’s Shangri-La to devolve into a landscape of plastic numbness and superficial charmlessness. While the mere mention of the Pipebomb promo will draw mixed feelings on account of some people being thoroughly sick of hearing about it, it can’t be denied that this was Punk’s signature moment. We still think of CM Punk nearly five years after he left wrestling, and this moment always comes to mind first.
1. Got Those Hands
Braun Strowman was at one time groaned at by WWE audiences. Here was just another king-size musclehead that was called up too soon because the company’s physique fetish, getting a longer look than the “deserving” talents that fans preferred. Today, Strowman rates as one of the more popular stars on the roster, and you can trace much of that high regard to a little vehicular destruction.
It may not be so cool to say it at this point in time, but anyone who annihilated Roman Reigns was going to be cheered wildly by WWE audiences. Braun took his post-WrestleMania 33 beatdown of Reigns to another level when he rendered him in need of hospitalization, before overturning the ambulance that had injured Roman inside. In Strowman, WWE had Steve Austin’s penchant for chaos and carnage, mixed with an Undertaker/Andre type of unfathomable strength. Strowman’s been the perpetrator of many beastly feats since, but none turned heads like the ambulance flip. The monster was suddenly cool.