10 Amazing WWE Breakout Performances
WrestleMania is SO last week...
Today is April 18 and, well, you know what that means, don't you?
That's right, today is Steve Lombardi's birthday! Many happy returns to the Brooklyn Brawler (I'm sure he's reading).
Obviously that has nothing to do with this list, because I don't think Lombardi ever had a breakout or star-making performance, since his primary function in wrestling was to make others look good as an enhancement talent.
April 18 is also the day that Backlash went down in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 2004.
A grand show and a worthy follow-up to WrestleMania XX, the even was capped off by Chris Benoit retaining his World Heavyweight Title in a sensational triple threat rematch with Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
It might have gone on last and been a cracker in its own right, but the match everyone was talking about after the show was Randy Orton's Intercontinental Title Hardcore Match war with Mick Foley.
The Legend Killer beat the Hardcore Legend in a hellacious scrap to retain the title but, more than that, he established himself as a true superstar in the eyes of the fans by demonstrating a hitherto unseen toughness and resilience that would set in motion the wheels for a babyface turn and World Heavyweight Title win just a few months later.
In honour of that match and performance, I've decided to go back and look at some of the best breakout/star-making performances/matches in WWE history to see how wrestlers went from challengers to champions, the midcard to the main event and from works-in-progress to the genuine article.
10. Bret Hart (Vs. Mr. Perfect) - SummerSlam 1991
All the stars aligned for Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1991.
At the time, The Hitman was emancipated from Hart Foundation tag partner Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart and making a go of it solo. He had always stood out thanks to his razor-sharp in-ring performances, but going from being the solid half of a team to singles star is no easy feat.
At SummerSlam, however, Hart was competing for the Intercontinental Championship, in Madison Square Garden, in front of his parents and against one of his favourite opponents in the form of Mr. Perfect.
Despite going into the contest with a debilitating back injury (which Hennig would take a year off to heal and would bother him for the rest of his career), Perfect did everything he could to make his opponent look like a star.
After a long, classic back-and-fourth match, The Excellence of Execution locked in the Sharpshooter and claimed the title via submission, beginning his first significant WWE singles title reign.
Bret looked so assured here and was obviously ready to have the trigger pulled on him. After SummerSlam '91, he would establish himself as one of the great Intercontinental champions, using his runs as a launching pad to the WWE Title, which he bagged a little over a year later.
It's an excellent match and an excellent moment, a defining one in the career of the best there is, best there was and best there ever will be.