In WWE, when is a loss really a win?
Ever since the squared circle was first constructed for battle, there has been one constant: There will always, eventually, be one winner and one loser.
However, every once and a great while, the ultimate victory is not determined simply by the Superstar who gets his or her hand raised at the closing bell. Strangely enough, the real winner can be the one who is lying on the canvas in defeat.
WWE.com explores the question of when a loss is actually a win.
Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka
Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, future Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka brought WWE matches to a new level, building an incredible legacy on the back of his high-flying innovation. One would be hard-pressed to find a member of the WWE Universe at that time who was not impressed by the fearless feats of the Fijian Superstar. Ironically, though, his enduring greatness was not born out of the number of championships he captured or his momentous victories, but rather his defeats.
Take Snuka’s legendary leap off the top of the Steel Cage at Madison Square Garden in 1983, a feat of wonder that is still talked about today. In spite of its magnificence, few remember that the historical moment ultimately came on the heels of a loss to then-Intercontinental Champion Don Muraco.
Moreover, Snuka is less remembered for triumphing over “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in numerous matches between the fierce brawlers than for the infamous moment that started their rivalry —when Hot Rod hit him with the coconut heard around the world on “Piper’s Pit.” It was a humiliating day for “Superfly,” but a great day for his overall legacy.
And while no one would ever wish to lose at WrestleMania, Snuka also holds the distinction of being the first Superstar to fall to The Undertaker at The Showcase of the Immortals, forever linking him to a run of 20 ’Mania victories so great that it can simply be referred to as The Streak.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Speaking of Roddy Piper, the outspoken Superstar also stands as a shining example of a competitor who benefited greatly from his loses. While Hot Rod has to be among the top entries in any number of lists — from “Best Talkers” to “Most Outrageous Villains” to “Standout Superstars of the Eighties” — one list you will not find him on is greatest World Champion of all time. That is because Piper never won a World Championship in WWE or WCW.
For years, Hulk Hogan couldn't pin Piper’s shoulders to the mat during the Rowdy One’s quest to end Hulkamania. However, the kilt-wearing grappler found himself on the losing end of his matches, both against The Hulkster and several other opponents, either by count-out or disqualification.
Still, what the win-loss record does not show is that every time Piper walked to the dressing room early or got disqualified in the heat of the moment, it only served to build his reputation for anarchy. In other words, he didn’t need to win to be great because losing actually made WWE fans want to see him get beat more, which made his larger-than life personality.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
The idea of a loss actually being a win is not relegated to the Golden Age of WWE. It also played a crucial role in the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. By the time WrestleMania 13 came around, Austin was already starting to pick up steam toward becoming the tremendous icon he is today. But, losing to Bret “Hit Man” Hart in a grueling Submission Match on The Grandest Stage of Them All definitely served as a major catalyst to his unruly reign of disorder.
In this brutal contest, The Texas Rattlesnake refused to tap out to Hart’s Sharpshooter, defying excruciating pain in the face of certain defeat and eventually passing out in a bloody heap. As a result, Austin officially walked out of WrestleMania with a check in the loss column. But more importantly, “Stone Cold” gave the masses a taste of just how far his rebellious nature would go and, subsequently, grabbed hold of the WWE Universe from that moment forward. Not only did his loss not work against him, it actually helped springboard him into the Attitude Era.
For Mick Foley, earning a moniker like The Hardcore Legend did not come from the number of pinfalls he got or how many times he captured championship gold. It came from being tough-as-nails and always taking the situation to the extreme, win or lose.
Who could forget when The Undertaker threw Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy off the top of Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998, when Edge Speared him through a flaming table at WrestleMania 22 or when The Rock viciously unloaded on him with a chair at Royal Rumble 1999. All three of these instances have two things in common: They all stand as jaw-dropping Foley moments that will forever be burned in the memories of both fans and Superstars alike and Mick lost all three matches. But could the defeats matter less when gauging his legacy? The answer is a painful no, because people forget the losses. In the end, they only remember the moments.
Shawn Michaels is arguably the greatest Superstar to ever step through the ropes. He is The Showstopper for the sole reason that absolutely no one else could stop the show quite like him if he was anywhere nearby.
However, HBK’s glory was also reached in spite of numerous blemishes — none of which matter in the least when measured against the sheer gravity that he brought to every situation. HBK’s charisma, attitude and daring nature in the ring have helped him as much as the many accolades he accrued.
The ground-breaking first Ladder Match that Michaels took part in at WrestleMania X, for instance, was a contest he did not win. Still, the extent to which he put his body on the line, in a manner no one had ever seen before, forever immortalized him.
Why is Michaels “Mr. WrestleMania,” despite the fact that he lost more matches at WrestleMania than he won? Simple. It is because the frenzy that takes over in any contest HBK is involved in at The Showcase of the Immortals instantly demands center stage. One need only look at The Showstopper’s epic matchups against The Undertaker, two of his biggest ’Mania matches ever. He, of course, did not emerge victorious against The Streak. Still, the image of him drawing his thumb up to his neck, defying The Deadman and refusing to relent in the face of his imminent demise at WrestleMania XXVI, brings goose bumps just by talking about it.