The first time. You always remember the important firsts in your life. You remember your first day of school. Your first car. Your first house. It doesn’t matter how many more times you go through important events in your life, the first time you do so is always so much more special.
In the WWE winning the WWE Championship for the first time means a lot. It means respect for your hard work. It means trust to represent the company. It means the culmination of a childhood dream. Sure there are other titles, but only the WWE Championship is the pinnacle of the business. You haven’t made it until you have won this title.
So I wanted to give you my list of the best matches where somebody won the WWE Championship for the first time. Now these don’t necessarily have to be the “best matches” in my mind, simply the most memorable. We have many to choose from:
Honorable Mention: Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam 2002)
This is worthy of any list for the fact it gave us the youngest WWE Champion at the time. No wrestler had been pushed to be so dominant so early then Brock. I am still amazed he went from his debut to champion in only five months. He was “The Next Big Thing” indeed.
The match is a very good one at an amazing pay per view. The best part of it to me was the crowd turning on The Rock. The Rock played along well as a heel in a back and forth encounter until an F5 and it was all over. The era of Brock Lesnar had begun. The Rock wouldn’t be seen for six months. Brock was now the champion and would help lead the WWE into the best era for Smackdown.
5. The Rock (Survivor Series 1998)
One of my favorite pay per views was Survivor Series 1998. It was because it was a fun tournament to determine a new WWF champion. I am a sucker for tournaments and this one has some fun matches throughout. How many swerves were in this tournament? Watch it again and find out.
But look at what The Rock had to do win the title. He won a good match with Ken Shamrock, defeated the Undertaker and finally Mankind. It was the first in a long series of excellent matches between the Mankind and The Rock. However, it is best remembered for the ending. The Rock puts on a Sharpshooter repeating “The Montreal Screwjob” only one year after the original. He turned heel and joined Vince McMahon. It would lead to “The Corporation” and establish The Rock as a star in a memorable way.
4. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VI)
This was a pretty revolutionary match in wrestling history. It was the first pay-per-view in Canada. It set a SkyDome attendance record. It was the first title versus title match with the WWF Champion (Hulk Hogan) versus the International Champion (The Ultimate Warrior). I was even more amazed by a face versus a face match. It was revolutionary for its time.
The crowd loved it. Sure, the two wrestlers no sold everything the other did. But with the true split crowd, it created a feeling of unpredictability that we don’t always get in wrestling. When Hogan missed the leg drop and Warrior won with the splash, the crowd went wild. It seemed like a true passing of the torch moment.
3. Chris Jericho (Vengeance 2001)
What a way to end a pay-per-view. You had the unification of the WCW and WWF Champion. You had Kurt Angle versus Stone Cold for the WWF Championship. You had Chris Jericho versus the Rock for the WCW Championship. We had three wrestlers (Angle, Stone Cold and The Rock) well established as the main event players. It was Jericho’s time finally.
First, he beat The Rock for the WCW (now World) Championship. Sure it took some McMahon distraction but it was a great twenty-minute match. This immediately led to the Jericho/Stone Cold match for the unification. It was another good match with an assist by Booker T to help Jericho finally achieve his goal. Giving Jericho the honor of being the first unified champion was well deserved for his tremendous work through the years.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIV)
This was a long time coming. Austin was quickly becoming the star of the new Attitude Era. His anti-hero was a change in how the babyface was portrayed. It seemed inevitable.
Shawn Michaels, to his credit, was in pretty bad shape but was willing to put over the new star at the biggest stage. They had a solid twenty-minute match and some added publicity thanks to Mike Tyson in their WrestleMania main event. It was perfect when Jim Ross said, “The Austin Era has begun”. It truly had.
1.) Mankind (Raw is War January 4, 1999)
I understand that this may not be the most important moment in WWE history. It didn’t define an era, but it meant a lot to a great deal of fans including myself. Mick Foley, the man who literally bled across the globe, was finally getting his well overdue moment. Tony Schiavone famously insulted Mick Foley’s win on WCW Monday Night Nitro. Sure it was on Eric Bischoff’s orders, but it led to nearly 600,000 fans immediately switching channels to watch Mick’s historic win.
As Stone Cold’s music hit, the crowd went wild. They knew “Stone Cold” was back and Mankind was finally going to win the title. You can tell by Foley and Degeneration X’s reaction how much it meant to all the wrestlers as they celebrated. It is what the WWE should be all about, years of hard work paying off for a deserving wrestler. Here is the end of the match. What a reaction:
So there you have it; the most memorable matches that led to first time champions. A lot of WWE fans are eagerly waiting that moment when Daniel Bryan gets the WWE Title for the first time at Summerslam 2013. If the match is done right, it will be a moment to remember forever. The first time should always be a special moment for WWE fans and for the performer as well.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I have my Twitter account @WWELasher as well. I would love to hear your thoughts about favorite 1st time winners.