WWE's 10 most memorable moments in Cleveland

CLEVELAND - WWE SmackDown Live is in Cleveland on Tuesday for what is shaping up to be one of the biggest televised wrestling shows of the year.

But even with the first-ever John Cena-Shinsuke Nakamura match and a United States championship battle between A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens already announced, WWE has plenty to live up to when it comes to the standard it's set in Cleveland.

Having toured in Cleveland since 1984, WWE -- formerly WWF -- has maintained a regular presence in the Sixth City. That's led to some of sports entertainment's biggest moments, including matches, promos and occurrences that have shaped the industry to this day.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the 10 most memorable WWE moments to have happened in Cleveland.

10. Kevin Owens powerbombs Machine Gun Kelly

WWE has never been shy to include mainstream celebrities in its programming and the June 15, 2015 edition of Monday Night Raw was no exception. This time, it was Cleveland native Machine Gun Kelly serving as a guest star, with Kevin Owens powerbombing the rapper in front of his hometown fans following a performance.

 9. SummerSlam 1996

Although it wasn't quite yet "The Biggest Party of the Summer" that it's become known as today, SummerSlam has typically represented WWE's second-biggest pay-per-view of the year, trailing only Wrestlemania. And in 1996, WWE -- then, the WWF -- brought the show to Cleveland just prior to the start of what would become known as "the Attitude Era."

Although it was a largely unimpressive card, main-evented by Shawn Michaels successfully retaining his WWF world title against Vader, the SummerSlam in Cleveland did feature at least one memorable match in the form of a "Boiler Room Brawl" between The Undertaker and Mankind.

You can watch highlights of the 1996 SummerSlam in the video below.

8. Seth Rollins calls out "Johnny Idiot Face"

On the June 15, 2015, edition of Monday Night Raw, Seth Rollins started the show by celebrating his successful WWE championship title defense at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view the night prior. And in doing so, he took aim at the show's host, Cleveland, which at that point was in the midst of a 51-year title drought.

Most specifically, Rollins took aim at then-Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was seated in the front row.

But while Rollins was right that "Johnny Idiot Face" would never bring Cleveland a title, the rest of his prophecy -- particularly the part about LeBron James -- would prove incorrect.

7. The Rock vs. John Cena Rap Battle

Although he hasn't wrestled full-time since 2002, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson made a brief return to WWE in 2012 for a feud with Cena that culminated in a match at Wrestlemania 28.

In the lead up to their showdown, the two took part in a sing off-at a Monday Night Raw in Cleveland, with Cena issuing a battle rap and The Rock singing a country tune. Channeling his former persona, "The Dr. of Thugonomics," Cena took the stage first, donning a Cleveland Cavaliers Mark Price throwback jersey.

6. Chris Jericho wins world heavyweight championship, Unforgiven 2008

One of the most hectic pay-per-view shows in WWE history just so happened to take place in Cleveland.

After losing an unsanctioned match to Shawn Michaels earlier in the card, Chris Jericho returned for the main event at Unforgiven 2008, replacing CM Punk, who had been attacked backstage earlier in the show by Randy Orton. Jericho would proceed to beat John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Batista, Rey Mysterio, and Kane in a five-man scramble match to win Punk's vacant world title.

5. Invasion 2001

In what was one of the most highly anticipated pay-per-views in wrestling history, WWF superstars squared off against members of The Alliance, which was comprised of wrestlers from former rival promotions WCW and ECW.

With Team WWF and the Alliance tied at five victories apiece, the main event featured a 5-on-5 tag team match between the two sides. The Alliance would ultimately win the match and break the tie after WWF champion Stone Cold Steve Austin turned on Team WWF to join its rival.

4. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian ladder match, No Mercy 1999

Before any of their epic TLC (tables, ladders and chairs) showdowns, the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian squared off in the first tag team ladder match in WWF history with Terri Runnels' managerial services and $100,000 on the line.

Taking place at the No Mercy pay-per-view in Cleveland in 1999, the historic matchup gave wrestling fans their first glimpse at some of the high spots that have become commonplace in the industry today. The Hardyz would ultimately win the match -- unsurprisingly doing so in memorable fashion.

3. Steve Austin wins WWF world title, Monday Night Raw 1998

It's not often a championship -- let alone the world championship -- changes hands on free television. But that's exactly what happened on the June 29, 1998 edition of Monday Night Raw in Cleveland, when Austin defeated Kane to win the company's highest prize.

One night earlier, Austin had lost the belt to Kane in a first blood match at the King of the Ring pay-per-view. But it took all of one day for the Texas Rattlesnake to reclaim his crown, beating Kane as The Undertaker watched on.

2. CM Punk walks out

One of WWE's biggest moments in Cleveland didn't happen on-screen.

The night following the 2014 Royal Rumble, Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena was slated to host Monday Night Raw. But WWE would soon find itself without one of its biggest stars, as CM Punk opted to walk out on the company just prior to the start of the show, ending the outspoken wrestler's run with the company.

More than two years later, Punk returned to Cleveland to make his MMA debut at UFC 203. He would lose his first -- and thus far, only -- match to Mickey Gall by submission in 2 minutes and 14 seconds.

1. The only Monday Night Raw-Monday Night Nitro simulcast

For the first and only time, the two shows that comprised wrestling's "Monday Night Wars" --- WWF Monday Night Raw and WCW Monday Night Nitro -- appeared in a simulcast, just days after the former had purchased the latter, effectively bringing the company to an end.

As the final episode of Nitro went off the air, McMahon appeared live from Raw in Cleveland, trumpeting the fact that he had just bought his competition. McMahon's son, Shane McMahon, however, had a surprise for his old man, as he appeared on the Nitro set to announce that he had actually been the McMahon to buy WCW.

To this day, the segment is still recognized as one of the most historic moments in wrestling history.

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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