WWE Finn Balor

WWE Is No Longer The Land Of Giants And Almost Anyone Can Be WWE Champion

Size, indeed, does not matter.

To the regular layman who isn’t a WWE fan, the names that might come to mind are the likes of Hulk Hogan, Triple H, John Cena, and The Rock. What is the one common denominator between all these men? They’re all big, muscular human specimens. Heck, even WWE owner Vince McMahon is pretty damn jacked himself.

In pro wrestling, one of the main attractions were the big guys, who used their strength to overpower their opponents. The concept of big men in professional wrestling dates back to centuries, and ever since professional wrestling took the form of a circus, they have become a special attraction.

The past ten years in sports have seen a seismic shift in the landscape in regards to the public eye’s favorite athletes and popular stars in a variety of sports. Gone are the days of Ali, Shaq and a bevy of heavyweight, larger than life, mammoth men in different sports that have come to define what a marketable and iconic athlete in the age of pop culture has been. Instead, it is now a wave of smaller, unorthodox stars that have taken over the world of sports and changed people’s perceptions.

Just look at the legendary Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola or Spain’s all-conquering World Cup winning team. Those teams were filled with diminutive small men. Stephen Curry is widely considered to be the new face of the NBA. Curry, when stacked up against the likes of LeBron, Kobe, and Jordan, looks out of place and relatively diminutive and unimposing. In UFC, the two biggest draws of the last three or so years weren’t even heavyweights, rather a featherweight in Conor McGregor; and a woman, a bantamweight, in Ronda Rousey. Finally, the two best boxers in the last decade have been Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: two welterweights.

WWE is no different. The last decade has seen a remarkable shift from big, hulking, muscular men up and down the card to what we see on the current product today: smaller, leaner, highly athletic and acrobatic wrestlers, with many of them not fitting WWE’s prototype of what a wrestler should look like.

Today, I’ll be detailing a few monumental moments that helped contribute to this seismic shift in the size of the stereotypical WWE superstar. Major moments that made fans think, well now anyone can be champion. Major moments that have gone on to become inspirational fables to young fans who one day aspire to become wrestlers.

The main event of WrestleMania XX

Image result for wrestlemania 20 eddie guerrero and chris benoit

Ahh, where do I begin to describe this? Now, due to Chris Benoit’s infamous double murder-suicide, this iconic moment has been, rightly, erased from the annals of WWE history.

Few WrestleMania matches have thrilled WWE fans as much as Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, but because of the tragic way in which Benoit’s life ended, WWE is forced to keep that classic locked in its vault. At WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, Michaels, Benoit and Triple H fought for the World Heavyweight Championship in a spectacular match that ended with an iconic image that WWE has understandably stopped showing fans.

The match that led to that photo-op was an intense, bloody battle between three great performers. Benoit had won the Royal Rumble to earn a shot at Triple H’s title. Michaels forced his way into that main event.

It was clear from the very beginning how desperate each man was to win, how much they’d be willing to put themselves through to end the night as champion. The three men landed stiff chops to each other. They tossed each other out of the ring. They fought a fluid and hard-hitting fight. Along with the usual suplexes and spinebusters one might expect from these performers, blood served as a means to display the wrestlers’ pain, their desperation, and struggle.

When each man was nearly spent, Michaels looked to be readying for a victory. He waited in the corner for either opponent to rise so he could then crack his boot against their jaw. Benoit rose. Michaels charged at him, but Benoit ducked, hurling Michaels out of the ring. Triple H then tried to pedigree Benoit, but the Wolverine managed to counter it into his most dangerous weapon, the crossface. Triple H held out for what seemed an impossible amount of time. He stretched out to the ropes, only short by inches. Eventually, the pain was too much and he gave in, his submission awarding the title to Benoit.

Jim Ross who had all but lost his voice talked of Benoit’s journey to that championship, “Year after year, mile after mile, continent after continent, but Benoit never gave up.”

Guerrero entered the ring to celebrate with his friend. Both tearful, they raised their respective championship titles in the air as confetti rained down on them. This is the type of moment that WWE must dream about creating. It was a convergence of beloved stars reaching the mountaintop together. It was the culmination of a long journey for two wrestlers who purists fans loved.

The undersized Benoit had paid his dues in Canada and Japan. He’d been a major player in WCW. Now here he was, toiling at Madison Square Garden in the main event of a WrestleMania against two icons. Along with Michaels and Triple H, Benoit crafted a piece of theatre that sucked fans in early and took them on an emotional ride. As for Eddie, he had earlier in the night defeated Kurt Angle in typical Eddie fashion. Faking an ankle injury, only to schoolboy pin Angle to retain his championship.

This moment is especially significant considering how these two were longtime cruiserweights who seemed destined to toil in the mid-card. These two absolutely shattered the glass ceiling and paved the way for other smaller wrestlers to become champion. In fact, just 2 years later, Rey Mysterio became the smallest World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania, evoking the spirit of his close friend, Eddie, who had sadly passed away a few months prior. Rey won his WrestleMania opportunity by spending near 62 minutes in the Royal Rumble, incidentally becoming the smallest winner in history, in the process.

Summer of Punk

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In June 2011, CM Punk interfered in a tables match between John Cena and R-Truth, which R-Truth won. Punk then took a microphone and delivered the ‘Pipebomb”. With his contract set to expire, Punk cut a, seemingly shoot promo, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the WWE for many years.

Punk broke the “fourth wall,” and spoke out against backstage politics, delivering one of the best promos in WWE history. Here is the full promo.


The subsequent match with John Cena at the Money in the Bank PPV was magical, assisted by a rabid ‘attitude era’ type crowd in Chicago who were desperate to see their hometown hero leave with the WWE Title.

They got their wish. With Vince McMahon at ringside, Punk left through the crowd, the storyline being that he was leaving with the WWE Title. It was amazing television! The next night, the storyline continued to progress correctly. Punk was left off of television and Vince McMahon was removed from power by the board of directors for allowing the WWE title to leave the company. He was replaced by Triple H.

WWE would then crown a new Champion, another step in the right direction, as it further solidified the illusion that Punk had left with the WWE title. 2 weeks after seemingly walking out on the company, CM Punk returned to confront the new WWE Champion John Cena, following Cena’s title-winning his victory over Rey Mysterio.

A unification match was set up for SummerSlam. After beating Cena again, Punk became the Undisputed Champion for a few minutes, before being attacked by Kevin Nash who was in the crowd. Shortly after that, Alberto Del Rio would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Punk to win the WWE title.

Punk would regain the title from Del Rio two months later at Survivor Series and go on to hold the title for 434, becoming the longest reigning WWE Champion in the modern era. He carried the company on his shoulders for damn near 2 years, before dropping the WWE Title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble.

Punk’s reign was legitimately one of the best title reigns I’ve ever seen in WWE. His reign is also of huge significance because he had to fight a slew of backstage politics to get to where he was. Punk also never resembled the stereotypical WWE Champion. He was scrawny, heavily tattooed and often dressed shabbily.

In fact, during an earlier title reign, Punk was reprimanded by The Undertaker for not ‘dressing like a champion’. To which, Punk responded saying something to the effect of “what about John Cena?” This got back to WWE management and they took it as Punk thinking he was a bigger star than John Cena. Then, the decision was made to take the belt off Punk at Hell in a Cell and put it on The Undertaker. If that wasn’t bad enough, his match was put as the opener.

Punk rose above all these adversities and made history with the company, and his success paved the way for our final moment.


Image result for yestlemania

This was it. This was the reason that we’ll use to tell people why we watch wrestling. All the crap we sit through, all the mediocre stuff, all the political nonsense and boring people getting pushed, this makes it all worth it. Our guy main-evented WrestleMania and won the championship to close the show.

Daniel Bryan’s eight-month road to WrestleMania began at SummerSlam in August 2013, when he started feuding with Triple H and Randy Orton. Since June, Bryan had been praised as one of the top performers in WWE by critics and veterans of the professional wrestling industry, as his rise in status led him to a title shot at SummerSlam.

At the event, Bryan defeated John Cena to win his first WWE Championship with Triple H as the special guest referee. After the match, Triple H turned heel by attacking Bryan, which directly led to Orton using his Money in the Bank title opportunity for an immediate title shot. Orton pinned a downed Bryan to capture the WWE Championship. After SummerSlam, Triple H claimed that it was a “business decision” to sabotage Bryan because Bryan did not fit the type of wrestler that the company was looking for as its champion; therefore, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (later known as the Authority) instead endorsed Orton as the “face of the WWE”. Over the next few months, Bryan was constantly sabotaged in his attempts to gain and hold on to the WWE Championship.

Frustrated over being constantly cost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by the Authority, Bryan challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania XXX. When Triple H refused Bryan’s challenge, Bryan brought a large group of fans on the March 10 episode of Raw to “occupy” the ring and refused to leave. An irate Triple H agreed to Bryan’s demand for a WrestleMania match with the stipulation that if Bryan won, he would be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the event.

The most hyped match for WrestleMania in New Orleans in 2014 was without question Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H.  The match between The Leader of the Yes Movement and the C.O.O. of WWE was also used as a storyline builder for later on in that same show.

The match itself will not go down as a classic match on Triple H’s long WrestleMania resume, but this match was all about Bryan.  Bryan was forced to take Triple H’s best shot despite not being 100% but would prevail thanks to a well-timed running knee. Following the match Triple H would attack Bryan’s injured shoulder leaving Bryan’s availability for the main event in question.

In the main event of the night, Daniel Bryan, Batista and Randy Orton faced off in a triple threat match for Orton’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship. In a gruelling match that saw Bryan stretchered out at one point, Bryan overcame the monumental odds and submitted Batista to become champion. It was the perfect culmination of an 8-month long storyline. The show ended with Bryan’s celebrations, including fireworks, confetti and Bryan leading the crowd in a “Yes!” chant.

This event was perhaps the biggest step in the right direction for the smaller guys to make their mark. In fact, it was after this event a flurry of smaller guys started being cast into the spotlight.

Final thoughts

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Has WWE finally gotten over its love affair with big men and bodybuilders? The simple answer is yes. Punk and Bryan’s success in WWE from 2011 to 2014, while short-lived, has had arguably the biggest impact for smaller wrestlers in WWE since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ heyday. Because of Punk and Bryan, both of whom did not fit what WWE traditionally looked for in their top stars, the door has been effectively kicked down, giving way to the likes of Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, and AJ Styles. This advent and influx of “indie darlings” has reached a fever pitch to where the smaller and/or unorthodox wrestlers are effective, to quote Seth Rollins, “running the joint”.

Today’s definition of “big men” in wrestling has changed. Even the big guys have gotten smaller. Instead of the Big John Studds and Andre the Giants of the world that we have come to know, today it’s the Brock Lesnars, the Kevin Owens, the Samoa Joes, the Luke Harpers and the Baron Corbins. All those big guys have varying degrees of athleticism who could put on a complete and competitive match with a beginning, middle, and end, as opposed to the slow, paced, lumbering matches from days gone by.

If NXT is any indication of what a Triple H-ran WWE would look like, the once-dominant land of giants would certainly go extinct. The land of giants is truly dead.

Hey you! Yes you, hot stuff. Like my article? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Also, don’t forget to share it with your buds. And if you’d like to talk wrestling with me, you can hit me up here: @jasonholic95