10 Career-Making Moments For WWE Superstars

From Ultimate Warrior, to Becky Lynch, to Stone Cold Steve Austin - Superstars are born...

When Charlotte was added to the SmackDown Women's title match at SummerSlam this year, the Becky Lynch loyalists let out murmured groans. Here was Becky's big moment being usurped by somebody that the office apparently had much more faith in as a "face" of a division, and this didn't sit well with that crowd. Their displeasure became much more evident when Charlotte scored the winning pinfall, capturing "Becky's" belt.

And then it happened: Becky, after feigning good sportsmanship in the aftermath, smacked Charlotte across the face. To blindly hear the crowd reaction was to assume that a cure for all disease had been discovered, because the assembled mass in Brooklyn lost their collective minds, approving of Becky's violent outburst. From then on, Becky has been nothing short of a producer of gold, building a deeper fanbase while captivating them further through her well-honed new attitude and social media savvy.

You could say that the heel turn at SummerSlam was the moment that *made* Becky, turning her toward the direction that has garnered her more attention, support, and momentum than at any prior point in her career. For fun, let's take a look at some WWE icons from the previous few decades, and look at the moments that steered *them* toward being forever-made stars.

10. The Warrior's Way


For 15 months, nobody could get the Intercontinental title off from Honky Tonk Man's damn waist. The conniving and cowardly Elvis impersonator had always managed to escape high-profile beatings with his gold in tact - Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Brutus Beefcake, and others found themselves unable to wrest the strap from the grinning annoyance that was Honky Tonk.

When The Ultimate Warrior stormed the ring at SummerSlam 1988, he was answering an open challenge issued by the overconfident crooner, and needed only 30 seconds to crush Honky in order to win the belt. Warrior's ascent to the top of WWE was boosted by this win, as he was not only undeniably cool due to his uncontained fury, but he also solved the maddening riddle that was Honky's despotic grip on the belt. When he ended Honky, Warrior built his own star for life.

9. Shawn Opens A Window


As far as heel turns go, it's one of the best ever, largely due to the visuals of broken glass and streaks of blood. The Rockers had been, well, on the rocks for a couple of months, with dissension and some high-profile losses threatening their effective partnership. Shawn Michaels' suddenly-arrogant attitude was ruffling Marty Jannetty, but there seemed to be a truce in the offing. Until Michaels Superkicked Jannetty on the set of The Barber Shop, before chucking him through the decorative window.

The phrase "through the Barber Shop window" entered the wrestling lexicon as a result of Michaels' treachery, as his turn was executed both deftly and brutally. It was a simple two-part beatdown, with the latter visual the most striking. Michaels would never look back from that betrayal, embracing his new heel role with expert application.

8. Rocket Launched


Though we look back at Owen Hart as a gifted in-ring performer and charismatic presence, there was a time when he was used as little more than midcard fodder on WWE programming. Upon his falling out with brother Bret at the dawn of 1994, he'd had almost no notable victories over major stars in the company. There was no sustained push before his turning heel.

Most onlookers probably would've figured that former champ Bret would've easily put midcard regular Owen away come WrestleMania X. When said match came to pass, Owen looked like Bret's doppelganger, matching his superstar brother move for move, hold for hold, before putting him away cleanly with a simple reversal. For his remaining days as a wrestler, Owen would always be seen as a threat, thanks to two factors: Bret's willingness to give to him during that one match, and Owen's world-class talent finally getting the forum to shine. Oh, and *winning* the match certainly rubber-stamped Owen for better days.

7. Blood From A Stone


There will probably never be a double-turn as excellently delivered as what transpired in the submission match at WrestleMania 13. Bret Hart embraced the bitter dark side of societal disillusionment, while Steve Austin heroically fought against mounting pain and suffering in certain defeat. For Austin, who was fast-tracking his way to the top of WWE anyhow, this was incontrovertible proof of his greatness.

Nobody could ever forget the visual of Austin, eyes clenched in a pained grimace with rivulets of blood crisscrossing his face, almost breaking the Sharpshooter on sheer will. Ultimately, his own body betrays him, but his efforts were good enough to turn the entire crowd to his side. It was one of the most bad-ass performances ever given by any wrestler, and fans began flocking in greater droves to the side of a malcontent that had just displayed true grit.

6. Climbing To Greatness


Edge, Christian, and The Hardy Boyz were each coming into their own as cult figures in WWE, and I don't mean based on each of their Brood connections. When all four were young men in the late-nineties, each had a certain untapped "it factor" that was just begging to be sprung. High-impact matches against each other revealed some of that collective potential. Then came the ladders.

When the two duos met in the finals of "Terri Invitational Tournament" at No Mercy 1999, with a large bag of money hanging over the ring, they would etch themselves into wrestling lore forever. The crowd in Cleveland was in sheer awe of the stunts being executed, and each dangerous fall would top the prior one. The ovation for all four men after the fact was practically a ticket-punch for each, as their synonymy with dangerous (and cool) high spots gave them the niche they needed to build their legacies on.

5. Big Match Ice


As the story goes, John Cena was in sink-or-swim mode come the fall of 2002, having failed to catch on as anything more than an enthusiastic babyface that occasionally won close matches. The charisma and look were there, but the clay needed to be moulded into something with a stronger hook. Of all things, a throwaway Halloween-themed episode of SmackDown would see Cena find his skeleton key.

Cena, by now playing it heelish, dressed as Vanilla Ice for a locker room costume party, and even dropped a few rhymes while in character. Said skit took place around the same time 8 Mile was being released to theaters, so could there be potential for a wrestler with some Eminem-like characteristics? Cena took the freestyle-rapping, throwback jersey-wearing shtick and made it his own, ascending the ranks on the merit of his energy, grit, and wordsmithery.

4. Killing The Legend Killer


When Randy Orton started kicking around as Evolution's fresh-faced junior, earmarked for future greatness, many fans wondered what the big deal was. Sure, he looked like a taller, more athletic Josh Hartnett, but he'd yet to really make good on any promise, aside from a few funny "RNN" segments. He appeared to be nothing more than an overpushed pretty boy, chosen by a company that valued sizzle over steak.

The feud with Mick Foley in 2003-04 began to reveal some of Orton's potential as a capable fighter, but it wasn't until he hit the thumbtacks at Backlash 2004 did sentiment really begin to sway his way. Orton, tack-holed and covered in blood from some other gnarly moments at Foley's hands, fought back from his compromised state, putting Foley away. It was a true star-making performance, as not only could Foley make a star, but Orton demonstrated that he had the tools to be one.

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.

Share this post

10 Times Urine Got Involved In WWE Storylines

Will Ospreay Vs. PAC Announced For 2019

Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.