Wrestling is about many things. Is it about the pure in-ring talent? Of course it is. Is it about the characters? Sure. Is it about the writing and storylines? Yes, they're very important.
But what happens when you combine all of those things and more? You get what wrestling is really about - moments.
Below, we've attempted to make a top 10 list of the biggest pops in WWE history. Now, for the record, we could have had Steve Austin turning up any time in the Attitude Era or Rock turning up any week in 2000 and all 10 spots would have been filled.
But, we've attempted to create a diverse list that has magical moments for different reasons. Honourable mentions include Kane Tombstoning Tori back on SmackDown (2000), Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins reunited on Raw (2017), Steve Austin helping Mankind win the WWE title (1999) and Chris Benoit's WM20 title win (2004).
While there are many more deserving moments, here is our list comprising the best of the best:
Daniel Bryan during the title unification ceremony (2014)
This was the perfect example of the fans using their voice. Triple H was attempting to cut a promo on how the WWE title and the World Heavyweight title were going to combine to become the WWE World Heavyweight title and because of that, former champions of both belts were in the ring for the announcement, which featured Daniel Bryan.
The crowd refused to let Triple H talk and The Game is a very, very accomplished speaker. Despite trying to battle through, HHH had to submit and let the crowd take over. Even acknowledgments from Shawn Michaels and Mark Henry couldn't halt the crowd's love for Bryan, brilliant.
Dolph Ziggler cashes in Money in the Bank (2012)
Much like the aforementioned Bryan, Ziggler is a man who had the crowds affection through sheer work rate and in-ring craft. Nobody could deny Ziggler's ability and it seemed like the WWE didn't want to push him into that world title picture. Even though he was a heel, his reactions got louder and louder and the company was forced to give him a chance. The Money in the Bank briefcase was that very chance.
Finally, the night after WrestleMania 29 - famous for Rock Vs Cena 2 - Ziggler cashed in on Alberto Del Rio and not only did he win the title, but they put on a fantastic, heart-stopping match, too. The pop for Ziggler's music is one thing, but the reaction he gets when he gets the sweet 1-2-3 is on another level.
Linda McMahon rises from her comatose state at WM17 (2001)
Yes, Linda McMahon has one of the greatest pops ever - you read right! Although Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon squaring off at WrestleMania sounds like it should be terrible, it was actually some of the best storytelling you will ever see.
It was incredibly layered. From Trish Stratus as Vince McMahons side-chick, Stephanie’s ambition to be her father’s only special girl, Shane's acquisition of WCW and finally, the awful treatment and sad state of Linda McMahon, Vince’s now estranged wife – this match had it all! When Linda finally rises to her feet and gives Vince a shot in the gonads, the roof damn near came off of the building. Fantastic entertainment.
Chris Jericho defeats HHH for the WWE title on RAW (2000)
Ok, so technically, this never happened. Referee Earl Hebner was forced to strike this match from the record books and was then promptly fired by the McMahon-Helmsley regime, but what a shock moment it was.
In 2000, Triple H had nuclear heat as the company's top heel. At the top of Raw, Chris Jericho, who had not been in world title contention yet, goaded The Game into putting his WWE title on the line to defend his wife's honour following another verbal tirade from Y2J on Stephanie McMahon. The plot thickened when Triple H had been assulating and arguing with Hebnar in recent weeks, so when the champion pushed the ref too far, Hebnar hit a fast count and Chris Jericho, for the briefest time, was our new WWE champion. The crowd literally lost their minds. Well, not literally, but, you know.
The Rock returns to save Mick Foley from Evolution (2004)
Damn, The Rock was quite possibly the most universally popular star in the history of the business. When he began to sporadically depart for Hollywood in 2002, the fans did not appreciate it. When he returned for a spell in 2003 as a heel, he was so damn good that the fans fell in love with him all over again. Genius stuff.
Mick Foley had gotten into a heated exchange with Randy Orton and thus, Evolution in the run-up to WrestleMania 20. Seriously outnumbered and with seemingly nowhere to turn, The Rock made a triumphant return to reform the Rock & Sock Connection much to the delight of the crowd on Raw. Jerry 'The King' Lawler's and Jim Ross' reaction to his return make it even more electric, but the way The Rock take son Ric Flair is probably the best moment of them all. Rock and Foley would put Evolution over at WrestleMania, making the whole angle even better.
Triple H's return from injury at MSG (2002)
This is right up there with the loudest and most sustained reaction a superstar has ever gotten in the WWE. As mentioned earlier in this article, Triple H was the most hated heel in the business in the early 2000s and it wasn't even close. In the early stages of the Two Man Power Trip with Stone Cold Steve Austin, the pair would face Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit with their WWF Tag Team titles on the line (Youtube it or watch it on the Network, it's seriously amazing) and disaster struck.
Triple H tore his quadricep totally off the bone and he would be on the shelf for eight months. The WWE fans, realising what a tremendous worker they had lost, greeted him with open arms when he was finally ready to return and the roar of Madison Square Garden was incredible. Triple H would go on to win the Royal Rumble weeks later and win the Undisputed WWE title at WrestleMania 18.
CM Punk defeats John Cena at MITB in Chicago (2011)
Like a few other moments on this list, there are a few elements that make this such a special moment. First of all, it was in Chicago, Punk's hometown and a notoriously loud city for the WWE. Secondly, the storyline. CM Punk's contract was legitimately running out and nobody knew if he was going to re-sign or not.
Money in the Bank was his real last date with the company under that contract and he promised to leave with the WWE title. When he finally won it from Cena despite Vince McMahon's efforts to intervene, the Chicago crowd went into a frenzy. It's very rare that wrestling can generate a real, palpable atmosphere like that. Very special.
Hulk Hogan promo after WM18 (2002)
Hulk Hogan returned to the WWE in 2002 as part of the villainous NWO stable that was meant to be a cancer on the company. The Hulkster would accept a challenge from The Rock for WrestleMania 18 and attacked the Great One in various dastardly ways in the weeks leading up to it.
But, when it came to the event in Montreal, they did not want to boo Hogan. They did not want to cheer The Rock. The WWE's best-laid plans called for a Hogan face turn and the NWO was essentially dead before it could even get going. After losing to Rock in a classic, Hogan opened up Raw the next night and wasn't able to talk for a good 10 minutes - Montreal drowned him out in cheers the likes of which we might not ever see again. It was astounding.
Brock Lesnar returns (2012)
Fans may be jaded with Brock Lesnar and his German Suplexes or F5s, but during his initial run with the company from 2002-04, Lesnar was a freak specimen and unbelievable talent. He put on clinics with just about everybody and was one of the most exciting stars during that timeframe.
Lesnar couldn't handle the full-time WWE schedule and stepped away from the business after WrestleMania 20. He would go to the UFC and win their heavyweight title and by the time he was ready to return to WWE, his stock had raised immeasurably - he was a bonafide superstar. After a bit of a lull in the business, Lesnar was the injection it needed and he got his part-time wish.
The old Stone Cold Steve Austin (2001)
This is one of the all-time great moments. After a heel turn at WrestleMania 17 (quite an ill-advised one to be honest), Stone Cold became something of Vince McMahon's boy after Triple H's injury. All of a sudden, he wanted hugs and to play the guitar instead of beer baths.
The WCW and ECW Alliance had just kicked off and the WWE was losing, badly. At the climax of Raw heading into the Invasion pay-per-view, Vince McMahon told Steve Austin at a bar away from the arena that he needed the 'old Stone Cold'. Austin initially refused, but when he saw his peers getting beat down and The Undertaker inferring he was a coward, Austin raced to the arena. When his music hit, the place went crazy. The Rattlesnake must have hit about 1000 stunners on members of the Alliance for the WWE to stand tall.
Naturally, he turned heel and joined the Alliance a week later.
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