April 1, 2012
Sun Life Stadium
One of the most famous matches in WrestleMania history for all (well, most of) the wrong reasons.
The match is simple. Bryan is the champ. Sheamus is the Royal Rumble winner. Just a year ago, their US Title match went to a no contest on the preshow before being turned in to a battle royal that neither man won. This year they are kicking off the show.
Bryan shows up, and the Mania crowd is crazy for him. As the bell rings, he pauses. He turns back to kiss his girlfriend, AJ Lee, and then turns around into a brogue kick, the only move of the match, and is pinned, one, two, three. Sheamus wins the title as more than half the crowd is stunned (the rest of them are the markish sort who just want to see the face win).
So, you’re probably asking, one of the biggest, most misused stars in recent WWE history has his World Title match cut short, so how can you put this above even some of the shit that has come before on this list? The answer is easy to explain.
For one, this match remains an indelible mark on Mania history. The ending was rehashed when Nikki Bella defeated AJ Lee for the Divas title when Bryan’s shoot wife Brie Bella performed the kiss of death on AJ allowing Nikki to get the victory.
Beyond that, this treatment in this match (which, let’s not forget, comes after a lengthy World Title reign), is what started the Yes Movement in earnest. This is truly the moment that set Bryan apart from being a guy half this crowd (smarks) was chanting for to a guy everyone in the arena was in love with.
If this match does not happen, the two year trek ending in one of the most heartwarming moments in Mania history when Bryan finally gets his “real” World Title win (though actually his fourth) is less sweet. Yes, the match is an enormous waste and a slap in the face, of sorts. But without it, Daniel Bryan would have never become what he did, and that is why I move it above similar abominations that did not have such positive repercussions, albeit likely unintentional.