Wrestler of the Day – July 22: Shawn Michaels

We’re at a big one today: Mr. Wrestlemania himself, Shawn Michaels.

There’s no way I can cut Shawn down to a timeline, so here’s a collection of matches in no order, other than what I consider his best match ever next to last and my favorite match of his last.

Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first. These are the quintessential Shawn matches so let’s get them done now. We’ll start with Wrestlemania XII.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

In the famous opening, Shawn’s manager/trainer Jose Lothario comes to the ring alone. He gets on the bottom rope and points to the rafters where a spotlight shines. It’s Shawn, dancing atop the rafters and ziplining down into the crowd. The shot from behind him with the flashbulbs going off was one of the most shown visuals in company history for a long time. Bret just walks to the ring because he’s a bit more laid back. Of course this is an Iron Man Match lasting one hour, most falls in that amount of time wins.

Earl Hebner is the referee because there’s no one else that it could be. He reads the full rules to both guys which is pretty cool to hear actually. Vince says that whoever wins the first decision will win the match. It likely helps that he picked the winner. Feeling out process to start with both guys being tentative to get into anything of note. Granted they’re also likely conserving energy.

Shawn easily escapes a pair of headlocks and they trade some more technical stuff. First bit of psychology: Bret blocks a third try at the same headlock counter that Shawn used both times earlier. We head to the mat with the champion in control via a headlock. Shawn fights up and we get a nice technical sequence resulting in Bret being right back in control with a headlock. Off to a front facelock as the announcers debate which man is stronger. That’s a good question actually.

Back to the headlock which is smart this early in a match like this. Shawn gets up again and fires off some armdrags before hooking an armbar. Freddie Blassie and Stu Hart are in the front row. They run the ropes a few times until Bret takes it back to the mat, only to be caught in a kind of abdominal stretch on the mat. They go into the corner and Shawn fires off some right hands, only to be sent into the other corner. Shawn is cool with that as he sends Bret to the floor with a headscissors. Fifty minutes left.

Back in and Shawn puts on an armbar but Bret throws him over the top. It’s Shawn though so he skins the cat and hooks the armbar again to put Bret down. Bret comes back with a shot to the ribs and a headbutt to the abdomen to take over. Off to a chinlock for a bit but Michaels escapes with a jawbreaker. There’s a Fujiwara Armbar on the champ but Bret nips up and catches Shawn in a kind of spinebuster.

The Sharpshooter doesn’t work though so he clotheslines Shawn to the floor. The fans aren’t sure what to think of that. Bret heads to the floor and gets sent into the post which makes him stagger into the timekeeper. We’ve got 45 minutes left as Shawn misses Sweet Chin Music on Bret, hitting the timekeeper by mistake and knocking him out cold. Back in and Bret hooks another chinlock as the timekeeper gets stretchered out.

As the chinlock goes on for almost three minutes we see the problem with this match: it doesn’t need to be an Iron Man Match. Yeah it’s kind of cool that it did went an hour but it would have been fine as a regular match that went like 45 minutes or something like that. The drama would have been better too and we wouldn’t have long rest holds like this. I can’t blame the wrestlers for resting like that as it’s not fair to ask them to go nuts for an hour, but it doesn’t make for the most interesting TV in the world.

Shawn finally gets up but can’t get an O’Connor Roll. Instead he hits a dropkick and grabs another armbar to take Bret down. Shawn cranks on the arm even harder with 40 minutes to go. Now we hit the hammerlock as the crowd is pretty silent. Back up and Shawn sends Bret’s shoulder into the post to give him the biggest advantage yet. There’s a shoulderbreaker to the champion followed by a double ax from the middle rope to the shoulder.

Bret starts firing off punches but Shawn comes back with a DDT on the arm. There’s a cross armbreaker but Shawn breaks it after one pull. Now it goes on full but Bret fights up and rakes his boot across Shawn’s face to break the hold. That’s rather heelish no? Back to the armbar but Hart counters into a kind of middle rope hot shot. Shawn fights back but misses a Stinger Splash in the corner, giving Bret his first advantage in a long time.

The bulldog puts Shawn down so Bret goes up top. That’s an odd sight for him and Shawn tries to slam him down, only to get pulled down to the mat by his hair. Bret hit the referee on the way down and we’re at halftime. Shawn comes back with a powerslam for two but a backdrop attempt is countered into a piledriver which gets two for the champion. Bret goes up again but gets slammed down.

Michaels starts speeding things up with a standing hurricanrana but Bret hangs onto the ropes to avoid the superkick. A backbreaker gets two for Shawn but Hart bails to the floor to avoid the kick again. Instead Shawn goes up and hits a HUGE dive to the floor to take the champ down. Back in and Shawn skins the cat, only to get caught in a small package for two. A Perfectplex gets two for Shawn and he hooks a sleeper. Hart gets his arm up on the second drop so Shawn rams him into the corner again.

Michaels charges at Bret but gets backdropped up and over the post and out to the floor in a great looking crash. Bret goes out to get him though which isn’t the brightest idea in the world. Back in and Bret works over Shawn’s injured back before dropping a leg for no cover. We’ve got twenty minutes left and Bret stomps away on the back. Shawn is flipped upside down in the corner and there’s a belly to back superplex for a close two.

We hit the camel clutch for a few minutes before Shawn fights up again. Hart tries a superplex but has to settle for punching a jumping Shawn in the ribs. Michaels gets whipped into the corner and it’s a Flair Flip to the floor where Shawn accidentally kicks Jose in the head. Out to the floor and Bret whips Shawn into the steps, knocking Jose down again. We head back inside with fifteen minutes to go.

A belly to belly suplex gets two for Bret so it’s time for a slugout. An O’Connor roll doesn’t work for Shawn as Bret kicks him out to the floor on the kickout. A suicide dive takes Shawn down again and we’ve got twelve minutes left. Back in again and Bret hits a German suplex for two. They slug it out but Shawn can’t hang with Bret at this point. Hart is too exhausted to follow up though so it’s back to the camel clutch.

Ten minutes to go now and the camel clutch eats up about two of that. It’s off to a regular chinlock with eight minutes to go and Shawn fights up. They clothesline each other down and more time is being burned up. A superplex puts Shawn down again but he STILL manages to block the Sharpshooter. Hart settles for a half crab as the punishment on the back continues. Shawn makes a rope but gets taken down by a backbreaker with five minutes to go.

Bret loads up his middle rope elbow but jumps into a boot to put both guys down again. A dropkick puts Bret in the corner as Shawn gets his nineteenth win according to Shawn. Four minutes to go now. There’s the flying forearm and the nip up (the camera misses it) as Shawn picks up the speed. A jumping back elbow puts Hart down and a top rope spinning ax handle gets two. The top rope elbow hits with two and a half minutes left. A good looking gutwrench powerbomb gets no cover with two minutes to go.

Shawn busts out a moonsault press for two as Bret is trying to hang on. Ninety seconds left and Shawn hits a middle rope rana for two more. Shawn slams him down and goes up top but he can’t follow up with a minute left. Shawn tries another rana but jumps into the Sharpshooter with thirty three seconds left in the match. The place is going NUTS but Shawn amazingly holds out until the time limit expires.

BUT WAIT!

As Bret leaves, Gorilla Monsoon orders the match to continue under sudden death rules. As Bret puts it: why? This was never agreed to and Bret is indeed getting screwed here. The bell rings and Bret is TICKED. He goes after Shawn’s back and hits a big backdrop. Bret whips Shawn into the corner, and in one of two moments that made me jump to my feet when I was watching it live, Shawn jumps over Bret out of the corner and hits Sweet Chin Music to put both guys down. Michaels gets up, tunes up the band, and kicks Bret’s head off for the pin and his first world title.

Rating: B. After an hour and five minutes of this match, there’s one word that can sum it up: LONG. That’s the problem here: it did not need to be an hour long and would have been much better suited as a regular one on one match. Either that or have a few falls in between, as having it be one very long glorified one on one match makes the stipulation seem pretty lame. The psychology is good though and it’s not a bad match by any means. It just could have had over 20 minutes cut out and you could have had the same match, and that’s not a good sign. Oh and what happened to Bret’s shoulder injury?

From In Your House XVIII.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

Inside the Hell in a Cell and the winner gets a shot at Bret next month at Survivor Series. The thunder starts to rumble and the gong goes off, bringing the crowd back to life for the first time in a long while. The entrance takes it sweet time as Shawn is forced to think about what’s coming. Undertaker turns the lights back on and Shawn is terrified as reality sets in.

The slow stalking around the cage floor begins before they head back inside, only to have Shawn launched across the ring. A ram into the buckle sends Shawn flying again so he tries some punches, only to be whipped HARD across the ring again. Undertaker rams his shoulder into Shawn’s before hitting Old School for no cover. A slam and legdrop get two on Shawn and some big right hands send Shawn down again. Michaels is thrown over the top and out to the floor as the pain is about to begin.

Undertaker continues to walk very slowly around the ring, hitting a single right hand after another. He tries a powerbomb on the floor but Michaels fires off right hands, only to be rammed back first into the cage wall. Now Undertaker picks him up and rams Shawn back first into the post, then the wall, then back to the post and back to the wall again. Shawn manages to escape being rammed in again and sends Undertaker into the wall, but Undertaker shrugs it off and punches Shawn down.

Shawn is sent face first into the steps and choked a bit but he FINALLY sends Undertaker into the post to get a breather. Since the outside doesn’t work at all for Shawn, he heads back inside, only to have his neck snapped across the top rope. A dive over the top takes out Undertaker and an elbow off the apron keeps Undertaker down. Michaels slams the steps down onto Undertaker’s back a few times before piledriving him down onto said steps.

A top rope ax handle sends Undertaker into the cage again and we head back inside. Shawn finds a chair under the ring and the fans are very pleased. Some chair shots to the back put Undertaker down for two so Shawn ties his arms up in the ropes. He doesn’t tie up the feet though and Undertaker kicks him down before backdropping Shawn onto the cameraman. Shawn beats up the cameraman, which becomes important later.

Michaels gets in a cheap shot on Undertaker to knock him to the floor before taking a breather. Back inside and the flying forearm and nip up make Shawn a little more cocky. The top rope elbow gets two as Slaughter has the door unlocked to get the cameraman some medical attention. Sweet Chin Music lays Undertaker out but he sits up. Shawn tries to run through the open door but Undertaker grabs him almost immediately. Michaels is catapulted into the cage wall (on the outside), cutting him open. Now the fun begins.

In one of the iconic shots of the match, Undertaker puts Shawn on his shoulder and rams him into the cage wall again. Shawn collapses next to the cage but Undertaker is just warming up. A quick low blow puts Undertaker down and with nowhere else to go, Shawn climbs up the side of the cage. He makes it all the way to the roof but Undertaker follows him. Undertaker counters a piledriver with a backdrop as we go to a wide shot to show how awesome this looks.

A gorilla press slam puts Shawn down on the roof again and a kick to the ribs sends Shawn to the edge. He tries to climb down, but in the really famous shot of the match, Undertaker stomps on his hands, sending Shawn flying off the cage and through the announce table. Undertaker still isn’t done and throws Shawn onto the other announce table as Shawn’s face is just covered in blood.

The stalking continues as the announcers are losing their minds at all this. Michaels crawls back into the Cell but can barely see through the blood. A running clothesline puts Shawn down on the mat before taking him to the top for a SUPER CHOKESLAM. Now we get to the poetic justice portion with Undertaker grabbing the chair. A big chair shot to the head puts Shawn down and Undertaker signals for the tombstone…..and the lights go out.

Organ music begins to play and Paul Bearer walks a huge man in red down to ringside. Vince: “THAT’S GOT TO BE KANE!” He rips the door off the Cell and climbs into the ring to stare down Undertaker. Undertaker is STUNNED as Kane raises his arms up and pulls them down, causing fire to shoot up from the ring posts. Kane tombstones Undertaker down and walks out, allowing Shawn to drape an arm over Undertaker for the shocking upset.

Rating: A+. This is one of the best matches of all time and the culmination of one of the best put together stories ever. While the brawling is incredible and the violence is off the charts, the storytelling carries this. Undertaker stalking Shawn to start and getting every single bit of punishment in that he could until Shawn used his speed and intelligence to get some control was brilliant. The torment Undertaker put Shawn through was perfect with Michaels being completely destroyed throughout the match and being dead to rites until the ending.

Kane making his debut here was perfect as well, with the story being just far enough in the past that people weren’t thinking about it but not far enough that everyone knew who Kane was as soon as he walked out. This set up a feud that went on and off for thirteen years between the brothers, but we’ll get to that later. By the way, I told you Fake Diesel would be worth something someday. He’s the guy playing Kane.

And of course from Wrestlemania X.

Intercontinental Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon

Shawn has Diesel with him here. Diesel is told to leave but just doesn’t because that’s the kind of guy he is. Basic stuff to start with Shawn blocking a hip toss but getting chokeslammed instead. They hit the ropes to build some speed and Shawn hits a neckbreaker. Razor gets sent to the floor and there’s a clothesline from Diesel, earning him another ejection which actually works this time.

Anyway Shawn gets punched in the jaw and Razor takes over again. Shawn is knocked into the corner before a BIG clothesline puts him on the floor. Razor exposes the concrete but we head back inside before he can use it. The Razor’s Edge is loaded up but Shawn backdrops Ramon over the top and onto the concrete, possibly injuring an elbow. Shawn gets the ladder but Razor jacks his jaw to stop it. The ladder is slid inside but Shawn hits a baseball slide to knock it into Ramon’s ribs.

Back inside again and the ladder is rammed into Razor’s ribs both in the corner and on the mat. Shawn throws the ladder onto Razor’s back which looks SICK. He tosses it at Razor against the ropes and goes for a climb, only to have Razor pull Shawn’s tights down and give us a rather unpleasant (or pleasant depending on your preferences) view. Not that it matters as Shawn knocks him down and climbs again, this time hitting a pretty famous splash to crush Razor again.

Razor saves another climb by shoving the ladder over, sending Shawn onto the top rope. We get a camera shot from above the ring, showing both guys laid out on the mat. Cool shot. Back up and Michaels is whipped into the ladder in the corner, knocking him out to the floor. Razor rams the ladder into Shawn’s chest with his back against the post. If that’s not enough, Razor launches Shawn into the ladder against the apron to keep Michaels in agony.

Back in and Ramon BLASTS Shawn with the ladder to knock him to the outside again. Razor climbs up but Shawn dives off the top rope to knock him down. The ladder falls onto Shawn in the process to keep both guys on the mat. They both start to climb but the ladder is bent. Shawn is higher up but can’t hang in a slugout with Razor. Michaels gets punched down but the ladder gives way under Razor, sending him down.

Ramon climbs again but Shawn dropkicks the ladder which doesn’t topple over this time. In a smart move, Shawn pushes the ladder over onto Razor’s back to take control again. A big piledriver puts Razor down so Shawn goes to the corner. In another famous visual, Shawn rides the ladder down onto Razor, crushing him yet again. Since he’s a jerk though, Shawn puts the ladder over top of Razor, but Ramon gets up and knocks Shawn off the ladder. Michaels gets tangled in the ropes, allowing Razor to climb up to unify the titles.

Rating: A+. This is one of the matches that reignited the midcard scene after things had died down for a bit. It also paved the way for the insane style that would start to dominate about five years later. That being said, it’s still a freaking AWESOME match with some iconic spots such as the splash. It also started Shawn on the roll of a lifetime, as the next year he would be in the world title match at Wrestlemania then win the title the following year. This match is required viewing for fans.

We’ll change from the classics to one I bet you’ve never seen and probably don’t know exists. Back in 1998, Shawn broke his back and didn’t wrestle until 2002…..except for a match in his TWA promotion on April 4, 2000.

TWA Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Venom

Bunkhouse Brawl, meaning anything goes. Shawn is champion after being handed the title by Justin Credible. Venom is a big guy that looks like a tall Jerry Sags minus the tattoos. He’s introduced as the owner and CEO of the TWA and brings a bunch of weapons. Shawn comes out to his WWF music and in street clothes before throwing some weak rights. Venom kicks him in the face as the announcers imply that this is title vs. ownership of the company.

They head outside with Shawn going back first into the barricade and drops him throat first across for good measure. Back in and Shawn comes back with a trashcan to the head followed by some crutches to the spine. Shawn takes his boot off and nails Venom in the face as the announcers explain some backstory: Venom was champion and lost a match for control of the company, only to have the winner turn on Shawn and give Venom the company. Justin Credible then won the title and gave it to Shawn, setting this up.

Shawn finds a small ladder and nails Venom in the face before dropping a very safe fist to Venom’s face. Back to the floor with Venom busted open before heading inside again for right hands to the cut. A baseball slide sends the ladder into Venom’s face and they head back to the floor and into the crowd. Venom nails a low blow and hits him in the back with a trashcan. He stacks up two tables in front of a platform before taking the fight onto said platform. Of course Shawn blocks a throw and hiptosses Venom through the tables in a big crash.

They head back inside with Venom throwing salt in the eyes, allowing him to nail Shawn with a Singapore cane. Apparently that’s a callback to earlier in the story. A bloody Shawn is handcuffed to the ropes and Venom nails him with the cane. Venom says you’re about to see history but some guy named Shooter Schultz comes in and suplexes Venom onto a table. That’s one heck of a table though as two suplexes and a powerbomb don’t break the freaking table. Schultz uncuffs Shawn, allowing him to powerslam Venom through the table, setting up Sweet Chin Music for the pin.

Rating: C+. This was shockingly good with Shawn clearly not being able to do all his usual stuff but actually moving instead of just standing there in the middle of the ring. It was very much like a Vince McMahon match as he can’t wrestle but can still brawl, and that’s all the fans needed to see, plus Chin Music of course.

Next up is a fairly classic match from Wrestlemania XXI.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle

This was when Angle was the wrestling machine so this should be awesome. Kurt takes in the YOU SUCK chants because that’s how awesome he is. I should mention the set as it has the Hollywood sign on one side and a movie marquee on the other side which says Now Playing and then the match, making it feel all the more special. They stare it down to start until Shawn slaps him in the face.

Angle takes it to the mat and rides Shawn to frustrate him. Shawn gets to a rope and gives Kurt a look like “o………..k then time for a new plan.” Michaels grabs a headlock takeover to slow things down but the fans are behind Kurt. Kurt fights up but can’t escape the hold without using the ropes. Nice storytelling there with Shawn gladly going to the ropes but Angle going to them out of frustration.

Off to a short arm scissors by Shawn for a bit but Angle uses raw power to lift Shawn up into the air. However, since Shawn had that move used on him back in 1992 by British Bulldog, he knows how to roll through into a sunset flip for two. See, THAT is how you play to older fans with some awesome psychology. Back to the headlock as Angle is getting frustrated by Michaels dominating the mat.

Angle takes it into the corner to brawl with Shawn but Shawn ties him up instead. This is also a callback to Wrestlemania XII where Shawn used the exact same strategy on Bret. Angle grabs a quick ankle lock but Shawn rolls through and a Cactus Clothesline puts them both on the floor. Angle loads up the announce table but opts to pick up Shawn in the Angle Slam and ram Shawn back first into the post to take over again.

Back in and Angle gets two off a suplex before putting on a body vice with a chinlock. The fans are split here but Shawn fights up with some chops to take over. Kurt will have none of that though and suplexes Shawn down to stop the comeback bid. Another belly to belly gets two and it’s off to a chinlock with a knee in Shawn’s back. Michaels gets up again and they slug it out with Angle taking Shawn down with a hard clothesline.

Shawn blocks a superplex attempt but Kurt rolls away from the top rope elbow. There go Angle’s straps but Shawn counters the Angle Slam and backdrops Kurt to the floor. Shawn goes up and half dives/half falls onto Angle with a cross body. As they get back in, Angle tries his German suplex off the apron but Shawn kicks him low like a good former villain. With Angle on the announce table, Shawn hits a gorgeous springboard spinning cross body to send Angle onto the floor as the table doesn’t break.

Both guys make it in on different sides of the ring at nine. Angle is bleeding from the mouth. They slug it out again with Shawn taking over. There’s the forearm and nip-up as Shawn’s back is perfectly fine all of a sudden. Now the big elbow hits but the superkick is countered into the ankle lock but Shawn FINALLY makes the rope. The Angle Slam is rolled through but Angle counters into the ankle lock but Shawn counters into a rollup for two. Another superkick is caught and there’s the Angle Slam for two.

To show how angry Kurt is, he puts his straps up just so he can take them down all over again. In a scary spot, Angle tries the moonsault but Shawn doesn’t roll away far enough, sending Angle’s face into Shawn’s side. Shawn goes up again but Angle runs up the corner for the belly to belly off the top. Somehow that only gets two and Angle yells at Shawn, talking about how Michaels’ days are done. Shawn shoves him back and superkicks Angle down but he can’t follow up.

The cover eventually gets two and Shawn isn’t sure what to do now. He slowly stands up but Angle grabs the ankle lock again. Shawn tries to kick Angle off but Kurt won’t let go. They’re in the middle of the ring with Shawn writhing in pain. Angle puts on the grapevine and Shawn is all but dead. He hangs on for as long as he can before FINALLY tapping out to give Angle the win.

Rating: A+. Angle and Shawn at Wrestlemania having a masterpiece. Who would have ever seen that coming? The match was excellent all around and the match never stopped being great. They would have another masterpiece at Summerslam which again shouldn’t surprise anyone. Great match here and definitely worth seeing if you haven’t before.

We’ll jump back to a match that’s much more infamous than great. From Survivor Series 1997.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

Shawn is European Champion coming into this for no particular reason other than he wanted Bulldog to not have the title anymore. Shawn wipes himself with the Canadian flag during his entrance to further make himself public enemy #1. We get the long tracking shot for Bret’s entrance which is always cool for some reason. Shawn jumps Bret to start but Bret snaps on him and beats Shawn right back down to the delight of the crowd.

A HARD clothesline puts Shawn on the floor and Bret is going off. I don’t think the bell rang yet. Bret takes it to the crowd and Shawn is reeling. Vince, Slaughter and a half dozen referees are at ringside now. JR talks about how this could be Bret’s last match if he loses. Shawn gets an American flag bandana and chokes him into the crowd. Remember the match hasn’t started yet. Bret backdrops Shawn over the barricade and back to ringside.

Shawn keeps trying to piledrive Bret on the concrete but Hart keeps escaping. They head back into the crowd with Bret in total control. They go to the entrance and Bret decks a referee. Back into the ring they go and the bell FINALLY rings as Bret chokes Shawn with a Fleur de Lis. Shawn comes back with the forearm and nipup as the fans chant that Shawn is gay.

Michaels chokes with the flag as Bret has a busted hand. Shawn stalls a lot because that’s the kind of guy he is. Back to the floor with Shawn pounding on Bret and spitting on the crowd. Shawn drops Bret face first on the steps and breaks a Canadian flag over his knee. Back in and Shawn hits a top rope ax handle and it’s off to a front facelock. Bret escapes in what has to be the loudest reaction to a broken front facelock of all time.

Shawn comes back and slams Bret down but Bret rolls through a cross body off the top for two. Bret puts on the Hartbreaker, the figure four around the post. Bret goes after the knee in almost perfect Ric Flair fashion, down to the cannonballs down to the knee and a Figure Four. Shawn finally turns it over and Bret gets a rope. A Russian legsweep gets two for Bret as does a snap suplex. Bret goes up but Shawn pulls the referee into the way so the shot hits Hebner instead. Shawn rakes Bret’s eyes, puts Bret in the Sharpshooter, and Hebner calls for the bell to give Shawn the title in the most infamous moment ever in wrestling.

Rating: B-. I’m only talking about the match here. The main thing to keep in mind about the famous ending is that there was about twenty minutes of brawling and of the actual match before the finish. I think that’s something people forget because of the famous part. The match we got was quite good, which isn’t really surprising given how familiar these two were with each other. It’s no masterpiece, but it felt like an epic encounter, which is what it needed to do.

Now we’ll get to the big white elephant in Montreal. I’ve not going to pretend like I have some big insight into what happened because I certainly don’t. Books have been written about what happened here and there’s no point in rehashing the whole thing all over again. In short, it was Bret’s last match, he didn’t want to lose the title in Canada, a screwy finish was agreed on, Vince changed the ending and screwed over Bret, Bret wasn’t seen in WWE for almost thirteen years.

After all the years since then, I think both parties were wrong, but Bret needed to get over himself. So what if he had to lose the title in Canada? I get that he couldn’t stand Shawn, but for someone who seems to pride himself on being oh so professional, it’s pretty lame to say he doesn’t want to lose the title in another country when he made it clear he was leaving.

Vince was in major trouble at this point and was under a lot of pressure. While I don’t think he believed Bret would trash the title on Raw, he had to be worried about something happening, like the title having no value if Bret never lost it, which is understandable. Did he go about the issue the right way? No, but it wasn’t a normal circumstance. Vince did what he thought was best and while it caused a ton of controversy, it was one of the few things he could do. There are a to of different ways you can look at it, and there isn’t a single right answer.

WWF World Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel

Remember this is no holds barred so anything goes. We see Omaha resident and legendary wrestler Mad Dog Vachon at ringside who will become important later. No flashy entrance from Shawn as he just power walks to the ring and takes the belt off on the way. He pounds away on the much bigger Diesel but a knee to the ribs puts the champion down. A big dropkick sends Diesel to the floor and a moonsault press takes him down onto the concrete.

Shawn steals a boot from the Spanish’s announcer and lays out Diesel back inside for two. Back up and Diesel whips Shawn up and over the corner before hammering him off the apron and face first into the barricade with a nasty bump. Back in and Diesel runs Shawn over again before walking around very slowly. Snake Eyes (a face first drop onto the buckle) drops Michaels again and Diesel yells at Shawn’s trainer Jose Lothario that this is how we do it in the 90s.

A big side slam drops Shawn again and Diesel chokes the referee with his wrist tape for no apparent reason other than evil. Diesel steals the referee’s belt to whip Shawn even more before wrapping it around Shawn’s neck and hanging him over the top rope. He even ties the belt around the middle rope so he can grab a chair to blast Shawn in the back. They get back in the ring and another chair shot to the back puts Shawn down yet again. A third shot hits the top rope, sending the chair bouncing back into Diesel’s head.

Now Shawn grabs the chair but Diesel hits him low before Shawn can swing it. A BIG backdrop keeps the pressure on Shawn’s back and gets a two count. Diesel cranks on Shawn’s neck but Michaels fights up, only to be dropped with a series of forearms, knocking him out to the floor. In the big spot of the match, Diesel Jackknifes Shawn through the announce table (big deal back then), further destroying his back. That looked AWESOME and Vince begging Shawn to “just let it be over” makes it even better.

Diesel tries to pull Shawn back in but Michaels finds a fire extinguisher under the ring and blinds the big man so he can pound away. The fans are going NUTS over this comeback. Shawn pulls in a chair and goes to town on Diesel but lets Diesel get back up for a clothesline and a big boot to the jaw. Diesel loads up another Jackknife but Shawn punches his way out of it and drops a top rope elbow to the big man’s chest. Shawn tunes up the band for the superkick but Diesel blocks the boot and clotheslines Shawn down again.

A third clothesline puts Shawn on the floor as Vince gets in the very almost famous line of “We said it would be no holds barred but we didn’t expect this.” Diesel drops Shawn throat first on the barricade before going over to Mad Dog Vachon. He chokes Vachon down and RIPS OFF HIS PROSTHETIC LEG. Back in and Shawn hits Diesel low, blasts him in the face with the leg and hits Sweet Chin Music to retain the title and blow the roof off the place.

Rating: A+. This was a WAR and one of the best brawls you’ll ever see. They were beating the tar out of each other out there with Shawn bumping around like a maniac and making Diesel’s offense look great. This gave Shawn the credibility that he needed as champion to show he could fight as well as wrestle and it was a great performance to boot. It’s one of my all time personal favorite matches and still more than holds up over seventeen years later. Probably the best In Your House match to this point.

Shawn would come back from four and a half years off for this showdown at Summerslam 2002.

Shawn Michaels vs. HHH

Shawn is in jeans tonight to hide the knee braces. Michaels comes out with right hands but HHH sends him to the outside. Not that it matters as Shawn is right back inside with more right hands. HHH is tossed to the floor and Shawn hits a nice dive to take him out. Remember that this is Shawn’s first match since March of 1998, or four and a half years ago.

A clothesline puts HHH down again and it’s garbage can time. HHH gets in a shot to the ribs and drops Shawn face first onto the barricade to get a breather. Shawn comes back in and is tossed over the top again but he skins the cat to a big pop. A trashcan shot caves in HHH’s head and a top rope fist to the head puts him down again. Shawn tunes up the band but HHH counters into a backbreaker to get to the meat of the match.

Another backbreaker has Shawn in agony and flopping like a fish as only he can. HHH gives a crotch chop and kicks Shawn down with ease. It’s chair time but a shot to the back only gets two. Shawn escapes a suplex into an O’Connor Roll for two but walks into a facebuster. A DDT onto the chair is only good for two but Shawn is busted open. HHH takes off Shawn’s belt and whips him in the back as the screaming continues.

And now it’s sledgehammer time. Shawn gets in some shots to the ribs to escape and HHH drops the hammer. The fans are behind HBK but he gets whipped into the corner and it’s off to the abdominal stretch. HHH gets caught holding the ropes and Hebner physically breaks the hold before yelling HHH into the corner. They slug it out again and HHH loads up a superplex but Shawn shoves him off, only to get crotched. HHH blasts Shawn’s wide open back with the chair and the crowd is somber.

A backbreaker onto the chair has Shawn lying motionless but HHH only gets two. He covers a few more times and HHH is very frustrated. A side slam onto the chair gets another two as JR screams for a fast count. Shawn counters a Pedigree onto the chair with a low blow and both guys are down. The HBK chant starts up again and HHH has the chair superkicked into his face. Now HHH is busted open too and Shawn slugs away before hitting the forearm and the nipup to blow the roof off the place.

Shawn backdrops him down and cracks HHH in the head with the chair. HHH is whipped over the corner and out to the floor where Shawn gets to beat on him with the belt. Shawn knocks him onto the announce table and hits him in the head with Hugo Savinovich’s shoe (Lawler: “A heel for a heel!”). HHH is sent into the steps and here’s a ladder being slammed into HHH’s face.

Some shots to the ribs have HHH screaming and the ladder is placed against the post with HHH being catapulted face first into the steel. That’s only good for two so Shawn heads outside again to get the ladder. HHH baseball slides the ladder into Michaels and pounds away at the cut head. For some reason HHH tries to come in off the top and gets caught in a superplex for two.

The crowd is losing their minds off these kickouts. A sunset flip gets two for Shawn but he gets caught by the knee to the face for two. HHH brings in the steps but Shawn drop toeholds him face first into the steel. A clothesline puts HHH on the floor and Shawn puls out a table. Well why not since we’ve used everything else.

Shawn puts him on the table and splashes him from the top rope in the big spot of the match. Both guys are DONE and the fans are in awe. Shawn sends the ladder back inside, says he loves us all, and drops the elbow from the top. Michaels has that look in his eye and tunes up the band but HHH catches the kick coming in. He loads up the Pedigree but Shawn sweeps the legs and rolls HHH up for the pin to blow the roof off the place again.

Rating: A+. Anyone who has read my stuff over the years knows I do not like a lot of things about HHH. For tonight, forget all that because this is one of the best matches of all time. I’ve seen this match several times and it still had me smiling to see Shawn make comeback after comeback and give HHH every single thing he deserved. It goes to show how great Shawn is as he came in after being gone nearly FIVE YEARS and does this. That’s remarkable when you think about it and is one of the greatest performances of all time.

Let’s talk about the match a little bit. It’s an excellent example of how to book a comeback, which is probably Shawn’s greatest strength. Shawn had the people believing that he was DEAD but he kept hanging in there time after time and made the huge comeback just like the crowd wanted. The other thing that works so well is the ending which a lot of people overlook.

The crux of this match was the destruction of both guys and seeing how far they could take it. At the end though, Shawn uses a basic wrestling counter and a cradle to win, totally shifting gears and beating HHH, the Cerebral Assassin, by thinking. That’s INCREDIBLE psychology and the perfect way to end this match. All in all, it’s a masterpiece and arguably the best performance of all time, all things considered.

Post match HHH becomes the universal evil by hitting Shawn square in the back with the sledgehammer and leaving him laying. Shawn is taken out on a stretcher.

Next up is a Wrestlemania double shot, starting with Shawn retiring a legend.

Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

Feeling out process to start with neither guy being able to get the advantage. A hip toss puts Shawn down and Ric shouts about being Old Yeller, which Shawn referenced to set this up. Shawn chops him hard and Flair’s lip is bleeding. They slug it out in the corner with Shawn taking over and going up top, only to be slammed down. Now Flair goes up and hits a cross body for two. Jerry: “IT ACTUALLY WORKED!”

Ric goes after the knee but Shawn kicks him to the floor. Shawn loads up an Asai Moonsault and hits table, landing square on the edge ribs first. That looked HORRIBLE and Shawn is in big trouble. Back in and a belly to back suplex gets two for Flair. Naitch stays on the ribs and hits a good looking suplex for two. Shawn comes back with a backdrop to send Flair to the floor and follows up with a moonsault which mostly hits floor.

Both guys make it back inside at nine and they chop it out. The forearm and nipup connect and Shawn starts slugging away. A slam sets up Shawn’s top rope elbow but it hurts his ribs in the process. Michaels tunes up the band but can’t bring himself to do it, allowing Flair to grab the Figure Four which is quickly broken. They fight to the mat and try Flair’s bridge up out of a pinfall into the backslide but Ric is just too old.

Instead it’s a sunset flip for two for Shawn but Flair takes out the knee with a chop block. The Figure Four is countered into an inside cradle for two. NOW the Figure Four goes on in the middle of the ring but Shawn finally rolls it over into the ropes. Back up and Shawn hits the superkick out of nowhere but the cover only gets two. Shawn tunes up the band again but gets kicked low for two.

Michaels comes back with a reverse Figure Four but Flair manages to crawl to the ropes. A quick rollup with a handful of trunks gets two for Flair and he fires off chop after chop. Out of nowhere Shawn superkicks Flair down but Michaels can’t cover. Flair slowly gets up and says bring it. Shawn looks at him, says “I’m sorry. I love you.” and superkicks Flair into retirement.

Rating: B. This is a hard one to grade. The match itself was entertaining, but it wasn’t supposed to be a competitive spectacle. This was designed to give Flair a great match to go out on and they almost did that. They made no secret about who was winning and that’s ok, but at the same time it was like delaying the inevitable. It was a good match to send him out on and the fans were happy to see the famous spots one more time.

Flair gets a well deserved standing ovation. This match should have closed the show and was going to, but Flair said no because the title match should close the show. Usually I would agree but in this case, Flair should have ended the show. Ric takes the long walk up the ramp to nonstop applause.

And another of Shawn’s Wrestlemania main events, this time from Wrestlemania XXIII.

Raw World Title: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels

Remember that they’re tag champions here but neither guy wears the belt. I can’t say I blame them of course. Cena’s special entrance this year is driving a muscle car from “the parking lot” into the arena due to being in Detroit. They circle each other to start before Shawn slaps him in the face. A quick headlock doesn’t do much for Shawn so he uses his speed advantage to pop John with some right hands. Back to the headlock and it works a bit better this time as Shawn takes Cena down to the mat.

Cena has had enough of this defense thing and rings Shawn’s bell with a clothesline. Shawn is sent to the apron but he tosses Cena from the ring and out to the floor. A BIG chop staggers Cena but Shawn’s Asai Moonsault hits mostly table and Shawn is hurt. Luckily for him though Cena is even more hurt as they head back inside. Shawn chops away in the corner before going after Cena’s knee. The leg is wrapped around the post and Cena is in trouble. The referee asks Cena if he can continue and of course Cena says yes.

Shawn keeps kicking at the leg before wrapping it around the ring rope. With Cena down in the corner, Shawn stares straight at him to play even more mind games. Back up and John hits a big right hand to send Shawn flying across the ring. Shawn charges straight back at him with a shoulder into the ribs in the corner to keep control. Michaels charges again but Cena’s leg gives out and Shawn goes head first into the post, busting him open.

Cena has had enough of getting beaten up so he punches Shawn down before firing off some mounted right hands. The ProtoBomb and Shuffle hit but Shawn punches his way out of the FU. Cena is sent into the corner but manages to duck Sweet Chin Music. The referee isn’t so lucky though and is knocked senseless. Cena tries the FU but is countered into a DDT to put both guys down.

With no referee in sight, Shawn rolls to the floor and hits a sick piledriver onto the steps. The THUD when Cena’s head hit was a little scary. The back of Cena’s head is cut open BAD on top of that. Back in and here’s a second referee but the count only gets two. There are the forearm and nip-up as the blood flows down Shawn’s face. The top rope elbow connects but Cena blocks Chin Music with a big clothesline to put both guys down again.

They slug it out in the middle of the ring but the FU is countered again into a sunset flip for two. Shawn’s leap frog is caught in the FU but Cena is too banged up to cover. The very delayed cover gets two and the champ is getting frustrated. With nothing else to do he tries an FU off the top, only to be shoved off by Shawn. Michaels dives at Cena but gets caught in the FU position. He counters that as well though by landing on his feet, only to miss the superkick and have Cena try for the STFU. Cena keeps trying for it but gets small packaged down for two instead.

Shawn misses an enziguri attempt and now the STFU is on. Cena cranks back on it but Shawn is only a few inches away from the rope. As Shawn starts to black out he grabs the rope and Cena has to break. He takes a bit too long though and gets in an argument with the referee, allowing Shawn to kick Cena’s head off. Another delayed cover gets two and both guys are down. In a cool spot, both guys have to lean on the other to get up. The FU is countered again but Shawn can’t avoid the STFU again. Cena cranks back on it and Shawn has no choice but to tap out.

Rating: A-. This was a much better match than the HHH match from the year before for a few reasons. First of all, there was a story behind the match. As simple as it was, Shawn being Cena’s partner gave them a bond and seeing them fight was something interesting to see. Second, the drama was better here. Cena felt like he was in real trouble and that the title was in danger, which I never felt last year. It’s a better match overall and they would have even better ones in the future.

In 2008, Shawn would have an awesome feud with Chris Jericho, culminating with this match at No Mercy 2008.

Raw World Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho

Big match intros are out of the way and we’re ready to go. Shawn goes for the arm to start but then says screw this and tries Chin Music. Jericho moves and Shawn charges shoulder first into the post. Out to the floor and Jericho throws Shawn at the ladder but Shawn climbs it quickly and comes off with an even quicker cross body. Jericho throws him into the post shoulder first again and goes for the ladder.

Shawn drop toeholds him though and Chris’ face hits the ladder. There’s a second ladder but Jericho takes Shawn down and hooks the Walls on the floor. For some reason he lets it go and brings the ladder into the ring, but Shawn teeter totters it into his face. Back in Shawn climbs up but Jericho shoves him off and into the top rope. The ladder goes into Shawn’s face and Jericho is bleeding from the lip a bit.

There are two ladders in the ring now. Shawn counters the bulldog and sends Jericho’s leg into the ladder. Shawn lays a ladder across the bottom rope and drops Jericho’s knee onto it before hooking up a Figure Four. After it’s broken, Jericho kicks one end of the ladder into the post so that it bounces back and hits Shawn in the shoulder and then into the face. It might have been to the previously injured eye. Jericho slams a ladder on Shawn’s head in a FREAKING OW MAN moment.

He climbs up but Shawn shoves it well enough to make Jericho stop and kick him away, causing Jericho to fall off and land on his feet. Chris puts a ladder on the top rope in the corner with the top of it pointing into the ring. Shawn throws Jericho onto the ladder and he falls out to the floor. Out to the floor and Shawn sets up the mega ladder. He hits Jericho with the ladder a few times to keep Jericho down and loads up the announce table.

Jericho is placed on the table but gets up and climbs up the ladder after Shawn. He gets in a few shots and tries a belly to back through the table. Shawn shifts his weight and lands on top of Chris, but they’re both dead anyway. Back in the ring and Shawn goes up, looking to ride the ladder down onto Jericho. The champ is ready for him though and dropkicks the ladder into Shawn, crotching him.

Jericho loads up a superplex but Shawn shoves him off. He tries the elbow but Jericho pulls the ladder onto himself so that the elbow hits the steel coming down. FREAKING OW MAN! Shawn tries the superkick but Jericho pulls up a ladder and slams it into Shawn’s head. Jericho puts the ladder on Shawn and hits the Lionsault onto it, which would seem to take a lot more out of Jericho than Shawn.

He puts the ladder on top of Shawn and tries to go up but Shawn kicks the ladder forward, sending Jericho crashing down with NOTHING to catch his fall. He’s holding his knee on the floor while Shawn slowly climbs. Jericho gets back in and shoves the ladder over, sending Shawn into the ropes. They both climb and slug it out but Jericho gets his leg caught in the ladder and is hanging upside down. Cue Cade for the save so Shawn superkicks him down. Jericho is back up and it’s another race. They both grab the belt and it comes unhooked and it’s a tug of war. Jericho headbutts the bad eye to pull down the title to retain.

Rating: A. Yeah it’s great. You knew this was going to be rated very highly coming in. Everyone loves this match and it’s not hard to see why. Both guys are masters at this and they beat each other up very well in the process. As with most great ladder matches, the matches where it’s about the guys and there happen to be ladders involved are much better than the other way around. Great match and a great ending. This would have been a lot better live I think.

Let’s look at another Bret match because you can’t have enough of those. From Survivor Series 1992 and make sure to take note of the ending.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

Sherri still sings Shawn’s theme music and this is champion vs. champion, but only one title is on the line. Feeling out process to start and they hit the mat with Shawn getting in way over his head. Shawn works on the arm and pulls Bret to the mat but Bret nips up. So that’s where Shawn got it from. Bret cranks on the arm and Shawn cranks on the hair. Things speed up and Shawn trips Bret up but it’s right back to the arm. This technical stuff isn’t working for Shawn so far.

Michaels gets to the arm but Bret easily sends him to the floor to escape. Hart takes over on the arm again and Shawn can’t get anything going in the first five minutes or so. A cross body gets two for Bret as does a sunset flip. It’s back to the arm and Shawn is getting frustrated. They hit the ropes and Shawn catches Bret in a hot shot to finally get in some offense. A thumb to the eye puts Bret back in trouble and he charges into the post to make it even worse.

Shawn DDTs the arm as the roles have completely reversed now, although it’s due to evil ways now instead of technical and good ones. See how good psychology can be when it’s done right? Bret’s chest to the buckle spot gets two for Shawn and it’s chinlock time. They fight over a top wristlock but Shawn uses the hair again to pull Bret back to the mat. Bret fights out of the chinlock but gets dropkicked right back down for two. Shawn is one step ahead of him in everything Bret does right now.

A backbreaker gets another two for Shawn and let’s hit that chinlock again. Shawn ducks his head and a swinging neckbreaker puts Shawn down, but cheating by means of a shot to the throat stops Bret again. A front facelock goes on and Bret rams Shawn into the corner with some shoulders to counter. Shawn charges into a boot and a bulldog puts him down. Bret misses a middle rope elbow and both guys are down again.

Michaels hits a jumping back elbow to the face for two and it’s back to the front facelock. After two arm drops for Bret, he pulls off the fastest small package you’ll see in a long time for two. A suplex by Hart puts both guys down but things start speeding up anyway. Shawn gets sling shotted into the corner and hits the post as is his custom. Bret launches him into the corner and kicks Shawn so hard that Shawn gets crotched on the top rope.

A BIG baaaaaaaaaaaaack body drop gets two on Shawn and Bret is surprised. Russian legsweep gets two for the world champ and a backbreaker sets up the middle rope elbow for the same. Bret superplexes Shawn down but he can’t cover immediately so it only gets two. There’s a sleeper from Hart and the referee gets bumped. That goes absolutely nowhere and he’s up a few seconds later. Ok then.

Bret tries another sleeper but Shawn sends him to the floor in the exact same way that Bret sent Shawn to the floor earlier. NICE! Bret gets posted and we head back inside for a whip to the corner for two. The problem here for Shawn is that he doesn’t have a big time finisher as his only big move was a stupid suplex move. Just as I type that, Shawn superkicks Bret down. It’s not a finisher yet though so he doesn’t even cover.

Bret blocks the tear drop (finisher) suplex but the second attempt connects for two. Bret uppercuts Shawn into the ropes but Hart misses a charge and crotches himself on the top. Shawn goes up to the middle rope but he jumps right into the Sharpshooter (in the EXACT same sequence that ended regulation of the Iron Man Match) for the submission to keep the title on Bret.

Rating: A. It’s Bret vs. Shawn with almost 27 minutes. Were you expecting anything but a scientific war? If you give Shawn the superkick here to use as a finisher, there’s no way this isn’t even better. Great match here with both guys trading great psychology the whole way through. Really good main event and a great way to show that Hulk isn’t needed to fire up a crowd as they were all kinds of into this match.

Here’s a classic Raw from April 23, 2008.

Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena

There’s almost an hour to go in the show so you know this is going to be something good. Shawn works on the shoulder to start but Cena counters with a headscissors into a stalemate. They do the exact same sequence and then try it again, but Cena goes for a drop toehold which Shawn escapes. Another STFU attempt sends Shawn running to the ropes. Cena is very pleased that he got that close.

Cena tries to grab the leg this time but Shawn makes the rope. They get in each others’ faces and it’s a slugout. Back from a break and the fans are getting way into this. Cena takes him down with a headlock instead which lasts for a good while. A big clothesline takes Shawn down and it’s chinlock time. Shawn pops back up and is immediately clotheslined back down.

Sweet Chin Music is avoided and the FU is countered by Shawn heading to the floor. We take another break and come back to Shawn getting in a shot in the corner. He’s mostly the heel in this but it’s not full fledged. They speed things up and Cena hits a World’s Strongest Slam for two. Release fisherman’s suplex gets two. Throwback gets two. They slug it out and Shawn counters a suplex into a neckbreaker for two.

Another slugout results in the flying forearm by Shawn. He nips up and hammers Cena down and goes to the corner for the elbow. It hits but instead of covering Shawn stomps the mat for the Chin Music. Cena ducks and Shawn grabs a quick backslide for two. The shoulder block misses and Cena may have hurt his shoulder on the crash to the floor. Shawn dives over the floor but Cena catches him in mid-air and slams him into the steps.

Back from break #3 and they’re both in the ring again. It should be noted that we’re probably half an hour into this and Cena looks FINE. He doesn’t look tired, he doesn’t look winded, he doesn’t even look sweaty. That’s almost scary. Cena charges into the post and Shawn has a target. He hooks a combination hammerlock/abdominal stretch on the mat before driving in some knees on the arm.

Cena shrugs off most of it and starts his finishing sequence, taking Shawn’s head off with a clothesline. The Shuffle hits but the FU is countered into Chin Music attempt into the FU for a VERY close two. We take another break and come back with Cena throwing Shawn to the floor. Cena rams his back into the post and we head back inside. Delayed vertical suplex gets two.

Bearhug time which is proof we’re in a big match as you almost never see a face use one of those. Shawn fights out of it but gets thrown over the corner and out to the floor. Back in Cena hits the top rope Fameasser which seems to be a new move for him. They go to the corner for a superplex but Cena instead tries an FU off the top, which Shawn counters into a powerbomb off the top to put both guys down.

Out to the apron and Shawn knocks him face first into the announce table. The look on his face says THAT REALLY HURT! Out to the floor and Shawn loads up a piledriver on the steps but Cena backdrops him onto the floor as we take I think break number five. Back with them on the announce table and Cena is all fired up. Back inside Cena hooks the STFU but it’s not cranked on perfectly.

Shawn makes the rope and we cut to some cheering girl in the crowd. Shawn looks a bit dead but Cena is waiting for the FU. Shawn pops up with the Chin Music but Cena tries the FU again. That gets reversed and Chin Music hits for a very delayed two. They slowly get up and Cena tries the FU again but Shawn slips down the back and hits the second Sweet Chin Music for the pin at 55:49. Unless there’s some house show match that I don’t know of, that’s the longest regular one on one match in the WWE/F since 1981.

Rating: A-. It’s certainly not a masterpiece or even anything close to one, but considering they just went an hour, you have to give them bonus points. Cena looked fresh as a daisy 40 minutes into this which is more proof that he isn’t human. This is also a loss that doesn’t hurt Cena because it wasn’t like he got beat but rather that he got caught. Very good match and the time aspect of it is remarkable. This match is on the Heartbreak and Triumph DVD.

Here’s one from the other end of the spectrum, from Wrestlemania XXVI.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

You can only win by pin or submission. They stare each other down and Shawn does the throat slit. Taker charges into some chops in the corner but Shawn is thrown into a Flair Flip in the corner, followed by snake eyes and the big boot. Old School is broken up a few times but the third try hits perfectly. The chokeslam is countered and Shawn goes after the leg. A quick Tombstone attempt is blocked and Shawn tries for the Crossface, only to be grabbed by the throat.

Taker grabs the arm as well but has to back away from Sweet Chin Music. Now Shawn is going after the knee and Taker is in trouble. Michaels goes for some stomps in the corner but the big man gets in an uppercut to send Shawn to the floor. Taker loads up the Dive but Shawn slides back in for a chop block. They head to the floor for Undertaker to take over with the apron legdrop. It hurts his leg again though and the big man can’t follow up.

Back in and Shawn takes out the leg again and there’s a Figure Four. Taker sits up and has them there crazy eyes…but can’t break up the hold. Scratch that as he can with pure power and Shawn lets it go. They slug it out on their feet again with Taker taking over with the strikes. Shawn comes back with the forearm and there’s the nipup. Unfortunately he walks into the chokeslam for a close two. Shawn busts out an ankle lock of all things and the grapevine is added as well.

Undertaker gets on his back and punches his way out of it but Shawn sends him to the floor. There’s a springboard cross body but Taker counters into a Tombstone on the floor. Shawn flailing to escape and then stopping cold was perfect. Back in and that somehow only gets two so Taker tries the Last Ride. The leg gives out again and Shawn counters into a kind of X-Factor for two. The big elbow hits knees, but that hurt Taker just as much as it hurt Shawn.

Michaels gets caught in Hell’s Gate but he flips forward into a rollup for two, making Undertaker break the hold. Back up again and there’s the superkick out of nowhere for two. Now Shawn tunes up the band but Taker catches it coming in and hits a full on Last Ride for two. Undertaker throws him to the floor and loads up the announce table. The Last Ride through the table is escaped and there’s a superkick to put Taker on the table. Shawn busts out a moonsault but mainly hits Taker’s legs. It would have looked great from a distance though.

Back in again and the superkick hits perfect but somehow only gets two. The fans are calling this awesome and I can’t say I’m arguing at all. Another superkick misses and there’s a big chokeslam. Taker can’t follow up though….until he plants Shawn with a Tombstone. THAT gets two and Taker is shocked. The Dead Man pulls the straps down but stops himself before doing the throat slit. Shawn pulls himself up on Taker’s body and does the throat slit himself, admitting that he can’t do it. Taker stares at him so Shawn slaps Taker in the face. That does it and it’s a jumping Tombstone to end Shawn’s career.

Rating: A+. That throat slit is as close to Shakespeare as WWE is ever going to get. Shawn going out in a masterpiece like this was as good as it was going to get and Undertaker gets to have another great match on his resume. Shawn has actually stayed retired which is the right move, because he’s not going to top this with one more match. It’s excellent even though it’s somehow a step below last year’s match.

Undertaker isn’t sure what to do now as the lights go out and 18-0 flashes on screen. Shawn still hasn’t moved. Taker helps Shawn up and they shake hands to a big ovation. Undertaker lets Shawn stand in the ring alone and soak up one last round of applause. Shawn slowly walks up the aisle and slaps hands. Shawn: “I’m going to drive my kids crazy in three weeks.” He walks to the back to end the show.

Back to the old days with the 1993 Royal Rumble.

Intercontinental Title: Marty Jannetty vs. Shawn Michaels

Sherri is at ringside with the question being who would she side with? Why would she side with Marty anyway? I never got that. Apparently it’s because Shawn never called her while she was in the hospital….which she was in because of Marty. So why would she ever go with Jannetty? Apparently Jannetty was drunk during this match. That might make things a bit funnier if nothing else.

Jannetty controls to start, sending Shawn to the floor twice with a knee lift and a clothesline. Marty punches Shawn down on the floor and poses in the ring. He tries a punch off the top but gets caught in the ribs on the way down. Shawn loads Marty up on his shoulder and in one of the only times I can ever remember it working, rams Marty shoulder first into the post.

The champ rams the other shoulder into the post because he hit the right one the first time, and you just don’t do that. Back in and Shawn hits a shoulderbreaker before sending Marty to the floor again. Back in and the shoulder goes into the buckle, followed by a double ax right down onto it as well. We hit the armbar but Marty fights out quickly. He tries a comeback but walks into a DDT on the arm for two.

Quick sidebar: why is that move called a single arm DDT? It’s a hold used on the arm, but the double arm DDT is used to hurt the head. Also a regular DDT uses just one arm, so why is this called a single arm DDT instead of the regular one? These are the kinds of things I think about when I’m bored by a match.

Anyway, Shawn does the always stupid looking jump into the boot spot. I mean he jumped RIGHT AT Marty’s feet. What could he possibly have been trying there? Marty avoids a charge in the corner, sending Shawn’s shoulder into the post instead. Marty speeds things up and pounds away, only to have Shawn slingshot him out to the floor. Shawn goes to pick him up but Marty suplexes him out to the floor.

Sherri finally does something by slapping Shawn, who gets belly to back suplexed into the ring. Shawn gets launched to the floor again as the pace picks up a bit. A powerslam puts the champ down but Shawn avoids the top rope punch. Marty stops himself before crashing and gets two off a DDT. Shawn misses a superkick and gets caught by one of his own for two. The crowd is getting into this.

Marty slingshots Shawn so he gets to do his big bump onto the post. There goes the referee via an elbow to the face and Sherri comes in. She swings her shoe but hits Marty by mistake of course. Shawn yells at her a lot and then superkicks Marty in the chest for the pin to retain.

Rating: C+. This started slow, picked up a good bit during Marty’s comeback, and then had a horribly uninteresting ending. Seriously, that’s it? These two would have a rematch soon after on Raw which won Match of the Year in a contest for least bad match of the year for all intents and purposes.

We’ll jump forward to a great match at In Your House X.

WWF World Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind

Druids wheel out a casket during the challenger’s entrance and of course Mankind is inside. A quick elbow to the jaw puts Shawn down and there’s a shot to the throat for good measure. Mankind’s signature clothesline (Cactus Clothesline) puts both guys out onto the floor where Mankind peels back the floor mats. Shawn dropkicks them into Mankind’s face and jumps up and down on Mankind before hitting a cross body off the top and out to the floor.

A flying shove sends the back of Mankind’s head into the concrete again but he doesn’t seem all that bothered. Back in and a top rope ax handle drops the challenger again and Shawn peppers him with left hands. Michaels drops the top rope elbow for no cover before tuning up the band, only to have Mankind bail to the floor where he holds the urn and rocks back and forth. Back in and Shawn slugs away even more so Mankind slaps him in the face, sending it down to the mat in a brawl.

Mankind trips Shawn down in a nice amateur style move where he tries the Mandible Claw but Shawn blocks the hand. He elbows Mankind in the jaw to escape and pounds away as they’re in what would be called full mount/guard positions respectively in MMA terms. Mankind throws him out to the floor and sets up the announce table next to the ring, only to have Shawn dive over to pummel Mankind even more. A suplex slams Mankind’s legs into the steps and the challenger is in big trouble.

Back in and Shawn stomps at the leg but stops to yell at the referee. Mankind gets in a few kicks with the good leg but Michaels catches him in a dragon screw leg whip. There’s a figure four but Mankind gets in a shot to the face to break it up. Michaels goes right back to the knee with a dropkick and an old Mr. Perfect (on commentary) move called the Robinsdale Crunch. Off to a half crab but Mankind is quickly in the ropes for the break.

They get back up and Shawn tries a running hurricanrana, only to have Mankind catch him in the air and fall back to drop Shawn throat first across the top rope. Mankind grabs a pen to stab into his own leg to wake it up a bit in a bizarre yet smart move. Shawn gets rammed face first into the casket and a running knee to the face keeps him in trouble. Mankind’s knee going into Shawn’s head slows the challenger down a bit so he rams Shawn face first into the mat to get a breather.

Michaels comes back with a quick belly to back suplex but can’t get any momentum going with Mankind right back on him. It turns back into a slugfest until Mankind whips him into the corner and gets Shawn tied up in the Tree of Woe. An ax handle to the face knocks Michaels free and a boot to the face puts him out onto the floor. Mankind follows him out but gets whipped knees first into the steps, followed by a drop toehold into the steps for good measure.

They fight for a suplex on the apron but Shawn winds up landing on the apron where he kicks Mankind’s leg out again to take over. Back inside and Shawn gets two off a powerslam before whipping Mankind in the ropes where he flips over, getting his neck tied up in the ropes. Shawn goes over but gets caught in a quick Mandible Claw to stop Shawn cold. The Claw goes on again on the floor but Shawn launches him face first into the barricade for the break.

Back up again and Shawn grabs a chair to block a right hand, hurting the Mandible Claw hand in a brilliant move. More chair shots to the hand have the challenger in trouble so Shawn bites away at the fingers. Back inside and Michaels stomps at the hand before going to the other hand to make sure it doesn’t feel unloved. Mankind manages to backdrop Shawn back to the floor and drops an elbow off the apron in another signature move. A swinging neckbreaker puts Shawn down on the floor as these guys are getting tired.

Back in again and Mankind gets two each off a double arm DDT and a piledriver. The fans sound ready to explode on Shawn’s comeback. Mankind is so frustrated that he pulls his own hair out. We get a couple of chairs thrown in but instead of using them, Mankind opens up the casket.

Shawn fights his way out of it and hits the forearm into the nipup that he’s famous for. Michaels stomps away in the corner and gets two off a high cross body. Mankind crotches Shawn on the top to slow down the comeback before loading up a belly to back suplex to the floor. Since that would kill Shawn though, he counters in midair into a cross body to drive Mankind through the table, sending both guys down in a heap.

Mankind sets up a chair in the ring and brings in a second one, only to have Shawn use the chair as a springboard to superkick the second chair into Mankind’s face in a cool looking move. That would look to be the finish but Shawn has to pull off and go after the interfering Vader, drawing the DQ in the only bad part of the match.

Rating: A+. This isn’t just the match of the night or the match of the year or the match of In Your House so far. This match is in the running for the greatest match of all time. It tells an amazing story with Shawn having to completely change his style and get crazy to hang with Mankind. On top of that you have the brutal physical aspect with both guys just beating the tar out of each other for nearly twenty seven minutes. Absolutely amazing stuff and well worth seeing if you never have before or if you haven’t seen it in awhile.

Post match Shawn knocks Vader to the floor but gets blasted in the back of the head by the urn. Sid shows up to fight Vader to the back but it’s Mankind up first. He puts the Mandible Claw on Shawn and goes to put him in the casket, but somehow the Undertaker is inside. Paul Bearer freaks out and the crowd comes unglued as Undertaker shoves Mankind to the floor and stalks the villains up the aisle.

After fighting a former partner and a maniac, here’s Shawn against God.

Shawn Michaels/God vs. Vince McMahon/Shane McMahon

Vince introduces God and we get a spotlight. His tron video is clouds and he comes out to harp and piano music. Vince stops and criticizes God before challenging him to a dance contest. I kid you not, this is really happening. The spotlights gets in the ring and Vince tells the referee to check him out. Vince makes the match no holds barred because the idea of Vince wrestling an actual match isn’t pleasing. Sexy Boy finally hits to end this stupidity.

Vince starts to run his mouth some more and Shawn finally drills him to get going. The daddy goes to the floor while Shawn beats up Shane. Shawn dives on Vince before clotheslining Shane to the floor and hitting a flip dive to take him out. Michaels chops Shane up the ramp but Shane comes back with knees to the stomach. Shane tries to piledrive Shawn off the stage but gets backdropped instead.

Shawn comes back but here’s Vince with a chair as they’re all on the stage now. Shawn blocks the shot and takes Shane down again before hitting a cross body on Vince off the stage. This looked like nothing live but it looked good on camera. Shawn climbs back up to the stage but gets hit in the face with the chair by Shane. Michaels is busted which I never noticed in the arena.

Shane and Shawn head back to the ring and Shawn goes into the post. Shawn gets sent into the barricade and then back into the ring as Shane is in complete control. The top rope elbow misses and both guys are down. Vince is on the apron now and apparently they have to tag. Shane DDTs Shawn down and it’s off to Vince. Vince takes his belt off and whips Shawn’s back because he’s that evil. Shane throws in a garbage can and Shawn gets his head caved in.

Vince wants a mic and taunts God a bit. God walks out and Vince says come back. Vince declares that God has left the building, but Shawn hasn’t. He stands Shawn up and tries a superkick but the kick gets caught. Shawn makes his comeback and hits the forearm and nip-up. Shane misses a chair shot and caves in Vince’s head by mistake. It’s a forearm for Shane followed by an atomic drop and some clotheslines. Shawn’s top rope elbow hits and both McMahons taste superkicks.

Shawn, ever the genius, doesn’t go for a cover but rather goes to the floor for a table. Make that two tables. My fellow Lexingtonians (yes that’s what they’re called) want ladders because much like other wrestling fans, they’re greedy people. Both McMahons are put on tables and here comes the ladder. It’s the jumbo sized ladder too. Shawn climbs up but has to dive on the invading Spirit Squad. That was incredible live but the camera didn’t get a great shot of it. The main problem was you didn’t see them until the dive so Shawn looked crazy.

The numbers catch up with Shawn and he gets beaten down by the five male cheerleaders who are currently tag team champions at this point. They throw Shawn back in and get the McMahons off the tables. The Squad takes Shawn into the ring and hit their finisher on him, which is them all picking him up at once and dropping him through a table. Vince gets the pin. JR calls this BS but the uncensored version.

Rating: D. The match was boring, but JR put it best during the match: this was uncomfortable. On top of that, the whole thing was stupid. This would set up a feud that ran for the whole year which didn’t work all that well either. It did lead to the reformation of DX which was pretty interesting, but dang this first part was torture to sit through. Not a horrible match but dang this was a chore to sit through.

Time for another first, this time at Survivor Series 2002.

Raw World Title: Kane vs. Chris Jericho vs. HHH vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam

Jericho is a tag champion, but the cool part here is that as he comes out, Saliva does his theme song live at WWF New York. HHH is defending of course. Shawn’s tights are….brown. This is one of those decisions that no one ever quite got and he was made fun of extensively for them apparently. I mean…..BROWN? Mankind wore brown for crying out loud. The wide show of the Chamber really does look cool. Anyway the entrances take a long time and RVD vs. HHH gets us going.

Van Dam hits a spinwheel kick to take HHH down but walks into a facebuster. The Pedigree is countered into a backdrop over the top to hit the cage outside the ring. JR’s statements about the Chamber are already nuts as he says it has no soul or conscience. IT’S A FREAKING CAGE! Anyway, HHH is rammed into the cage over and over to bust him open and Van Dam hits Rolling Thunder over the top rope to land on HHH on the cage. Yeah there’s a floor made of cage surrounding the ring that is level with the mat if you’ve somehow never seen one of these.

Van Dam goes up on one of the pods but his flip dive mostly hits the floor instead of HHH. Back in the ring and HHH gets stomped down in the corner as Jericho is added in as the third man. Van Dam immediately kicks him down and it’s five minutes until the next entrant. A cartwheel into a moonsault gets two on Jericho and they head outside the ring as well. In the first famous spot in the Chamber’s history, Van Dam jumps off the top rope, misses Jericho, and grabs onto the cage like Spider-Man before spinning back around to cross body Jericho. That’s still awesome.

HHH gets back up and hits the knee to the face of Van Dam which gives Jericho a two count. HHH and Jericho double team RVD before Chris tells Shawn to suck it. Van Dam’s back gets rammed into the cage wall some more and Jericho talks a lot of trash. Rob’s back goes into the cage over and over and we head back in to the ring. There’s a spin kick to put Jericho down as Booker T is in fourth.

Booker quickly clears the ring and we get a Spinarooni before Van Dam fights Booker one on one. Booker gets in some shots to Rob but walks into the stepover kick to give Van Dam control again. HHH gets back up and takes Van Dam down, only to get caught by the scissors kick from Booker. The next big spot of the match is Van Dam going up to the top of the pod and hitting the Five Star on HHH, with Van Dam’s knee hitting HHH’s throat, severely (and legitimately) injuring HHH’s windpipe. Since HHH can’t get up right now to eliminate Van Dam, Booker hits a missile dropkick to take Van Dam out.

Booker grabs a quick cover on HHH but only gets two. Jericho goes after Booker but gets caught in an Alabama Slam for his efforts. Kane comes in fifth because we don’t quite know if Shawn’s back can handle a full match yet. Kane goes off on Booker and Jericho as HHH lays on the outside. Jericho gets launched face first into the cage wall and is then thrown through the BULLETPROOF, yes BULLETPROOF I SAY glass. This would become a running joke in the Chamber.

JR says the Chamber has no soul or conscience again just to hammer home the point. Kane chokeslams Booker and Jericho adds the Lionsault to take Booker out and get us down to four guys. A Kane suplex gets two on Jericho as we’re waiting on Shawn to come in. HHH goes up top for no apparent reason and gets slammed down ala Flair. Jericho missile dropkicks Kane down and here’s HBK.

HHH is down in the corner of course so Shawn can only beat on Kane and Jericho. There’s the forearm to Kane but no nipup, leaving everyone down at the moment. Kane whips Shawn HARD into the corner where Shawn flips upside down. There’s a chokeslam for all three remaining guys not named Kane but instead of covering, Kane loads up a Tombstone on HHH. Shawn superkicks Kane down but he sits up. The Pedigree and Lionsault finally put Kane out and we’re down to three.

Shawn gets double teamed by HHH and Jericho and it’s time for Chris to dance. After being rammed into the cage a few times, Michaels is busted open. Jericho talks more trash and HHH walks around a lot. Shawn tries to fight back but his piledriver on the cage is countered to backdrop his bad back onto the cage again. There’s the Lionsault….for two. You know, the move that put out Booker and Kane earlier? It’s now not enough to put down Shawn when he’s been beaten down and injured on top of having one match in four and a half years.

Shawn comes back with a moonsault press to Jericho for two before putting Jericho in the Walls. HHH finally comes back from getting popcorn or something with a DDT to Shawn. Jericho and HHH finally get in the argument you were expecting and the fight is on. Jericho jumps out of the corner and lands in the Pedigree, but Jericho counters into the Walls. While holding HHH, Shawn kicks Jericho’s head off and it’s down to one on one. If this surprises you, you’re an imbecile.

So it’s Shawn, bloodied and injured and in his second match in four years, against an also injured HHH in the main event at Madison Square Garden. Gosh I’m so glad these two are so selfless. The spinebuster puts Shawn down and HHH backdrops him over the top. Shawn sends HHH into the cage but when Shawn tries to Pedigree HHH on the steel, HHH counters into a slingshot through the cage again. You know, because Shawn would still be alive at this point.

Back in the ring all that gets two and it’s time for the slugout. Seriously, those brown tights are so stupid looking. A facebuster puts Shawn down and it’s another clothesline to put him onto the outside. The Pedigree on the steel is countered into another slingshot into the Chamber wall. Back into the ring and Shawn drops the elbow off the top of the pod. The Superkick is countered into the Pedigree and, say it with me, Shawn kicks out at two. Another Pedigree is countered into a backdrop, followed by the Sweet Chin Music to give Shawn the title.

Rating: D+. I’ve mellowed on this match in the last few years to the point where I’m not mad about it anymore. However, it’s still one of those matches where you look at it and say really. As in REALLY? We’re supposed to buy that Shawn can survive ALL of that and still win the freaking title? You have to keep in mind this isn’t the Shawn who was having the match of the year for like five years running. No one expected him to go on as long as he did. At this point, making it to Wrestlemania would have been impressive.

That’s where this match loses it for me: we’re supposed to buy that Shawn is so great, so amazing, and so tough that he can basically walk off the street and be better than four of the top guys in the business? There comes a point where my suspension of disbelief is cut off and I can’t buy this anymore. We passed that at Summerslam, making this even more ridiculous. This match is also the reason we had to sit through the AWFUL match at Armageddon, where HHH and Shawn got to waste 40 minutes of our time by barely being able to move.

In short, this is way more than I can accept as far as the match being realistic. In wrestling, you have to accept that some stuff is ridiculous. That’s called suspending disbelief. However, there comes a point where that’s not the case any longer. It’s unrealistic in wrestling terms to accept that Shawn can survive all this and win the title. This was pure selfishness from Shawn and HHH, which would get WAY worse in the future. HHH wouldn’t make a new star for over a YEAR when he put Benoit over at Wrestlemania in the same arena.

As for the rest of the match, it’s acceptable, but WAY too long. The Chamber matches need to go about thirty minutes instead of the forty this one went. The last seventeen minutes here, as in the amount of time after Kane is eliminated, are REALLY repetitive and while they had good drama, they needed to be cut. Booker, RVD, Jericho and Kane were all there to fill in spaces and be there for Shawn and HHH to bounce off of. I don’t hate the match, but it really doesn’t work all that well.

Shawn would enter the 1995 Royal Rumble first and do something special, albeit in a bad match.

Royal Rumble

Shawn is #1 and Bulldog is #2. Shawn immediately jumps Bulldog but this isn’t going to last long. Remember there are one minute intervals, which was just a bad idea in general. Smith gets a quick gorilla press, but why throw Shawn OUT when you can just slam him? That clearly won’t come back to haunt him later or anything of course. Smith charges into a boot and here’s Eli Blu (one of the Harris Brothers, who were the big bald bikers who were around for WAY too long) at #3.

Nothing happens so here’s Duke Droese (a wrestling garbageman) at #4. Eli fights Smith and Droese squeezes Shawn until Jimmy Del Ray of the Heavenly Bodies is #5. Nothing continues to happen because there isn’t enough time between entries. Sione (Barbarian) of the Headshrinkers is #6 as Del Ray is tossed out. Tom Prichard of the Heavyenly Bodies is #7 and STILL nothing is happening.

Doink is #8 as the Rumble is going way too fast. It’s like the original Rumble: not enough names to care about and nothing going on at the same time. Kwang is #9 and Rick Martel is #10, I believe in his last WWF match. There are nine people in the ring right now. Shawn is almost out but fights off Kwang to survive. Owen Hart is in at #11 and here’s Bret to jump him in the aisle. Owen survives and climbs in, only to be eliminated in three seconds.

Shawn puts out Droese and Timothy Well (partners with Steven Dunn in the tag team of Well Dunn) is #12 and is out almost immediately. Martel and Prichard go out faster than I can see them and Kwang superkicks Doink out. Luke of the Bushwhackers is #13 and during his entrance, everyone but Bulldog and Shawn are gone. Literally, four people were put out inside of six seconds. Luke is out almost immediately and it’s Shawn vs. Bulldog again.

Here’s Jacob Blu at #14 and HE TOO is gone in like fifteen seconds. This is so stupid. King Kong Bundy is #15 and he beats on both guys for about twenty seconds before it’s Mo at #16. Mo is like the fifth guy to last less than thirty seconds. If your roster is this weak, CUT THE FREAKING MATCH DOWN. Nothing else happens until Mable is #17 for the showdown with Bundy. Mabel dumps him out as Butch is #18 and is gone in less than 20 seconds as well. More on this later.

Lex Luger is #19 and he goes right for Mabel for no apparent reason. He eliminates the fat purple and gold dude before gorilla pressing Michaels down like an idiot. Mantaur, a stupid monster character, is #20. He beats on Luger and Bulldog until Aldo Montoya (Justin Credible with a jockstrap on his face) is #21. Henry Godwinn is #22 as we’re waiting on a bunch of people to get thrown out so everyone can go home. I think this is one of Henry’s first matches.

Billy Gunn is #23 so naturally Bart Gunn is #24. Bob Backlund is #25 and also lasts about fifteen seconds due to a Bret Hart attack. Steven Dunn is #26 as there are like ten people in there. Bret and Backlund fight in the aisle again and old man Dick Murdoch is #27. Mantaur misses a charge at Bart and Adam Bomb is #28. For the second year in a row, Vince decides Adam Bomb is going to win the Rumble. Seriously.

Fatu is #29 and Luger eliminates Mantaur. Crush is #30, giving us a final group of Shawn, Bulldog, Luger, Montoya, Godwinn, Bart, Billy, Dunn, Murdoch, Bomb, Fatu and Crush, or WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE. Thankfully Crush immediately eliminates the Gunns to clear the ring out a bit. We cut to Anderson who gives a very uninterested wave and points to the ring. You know, because this is SO beneath her. Well, not beneath her enough to give the check back or anything but you get the idea.

Dunn is put out off camera and Murdoch almost puts Shawn out. Luger makes the save due to a lack of intelligence as Murdoch tries headbutts on Fatu. Naturally it doesn’t work at all because YOU DON’T HEADBUTT A SAMOAN. Bomb is backdropped out and Shawn throwsn Montoya out. Luger saves Shawn AGAIN and Crush eliminates Fatu. There are six guys left: Murdoch (who hits a dropkick and airplane spin on Godwinn), Godwinn, Shawn, Bulldog, Crush and Luger.

Murdoch gets dizzy from the spin and falls out to get us down to five. Lex dumps Godwinn and we’ve got four left. Michaels and Crush double team Luger as Bulldog gets a breather. They dump Lex and we’ve got three guys left. Smith gets double teamed until Shawn turns on Crush and is lifted into the air. Bulldog uses the distraction to eliminate Crush and it’s one on one. Davey destroys Shawn and presses him onto (not over. That would make sense) the top rope. Shawn is knocked over the top, but in the famous finish, he hangs on and ONLY ONE FOOT touches, allowing Shawn to come back in and eliminate Smith to win.

Rating: D. This is a hard one to grade, because the stuff that was decent was in fact decent. The problem is there wasn’t much stuff that falls into that category. First and foremost, SEVEN PEOPLE OUT OF THIRTY did not last thirty seconds. If they’re that meaningless to the match, simply do not put them in the Rumble. It looks stupid and there’s no reason to have them out there.

Second, the time intervals. These were a major issues because there’s no time to get ANYTHING going in the match. When you count ten seconds or so to get into the ring (some people take up to twenty), you’re looking at about 45 seconds of action with the new guy before someone else comes out. That’s just not enough time to get anything going at all.

Third, and this is probably the biggest problem of the match, look at the roster here. At a glance, I see four people with actual chances to win: Crush, Luger (they’re both BIG stretches), Bulldog, and Shawn. After that there’s Owen Hart but he was one of the guys that didn’t make it thirty seconds in the ring.

Then you’re looking at guys like Montoya and Well Dunn and the Bushwhackers (who amazingly still had jobs in 1995) and the Heavenly Bodies (by my count there were five tag teams in here, or one third of the match. WAY too many guys at that level) and Dick freaking Murdoch. This is a match that was BEGGING for a midcard to come in and fill in some spots. Guys like Ramon and Jarrett and Bigelow and Tatanka would have helped this match a ton, but instead we get all these fillers. That’s a big reason why this didn’t work.

We’ll hop the pond for One Night Only in 1997.

European Title: Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog

Now if you want to talk about a mixed reaction, Shawn gets a mixed reaction. I mean it’s right down the middle. Davey of course gets the big old hero pop that you knew he would get. While it may seem obvious as to who is going to win here, this wasn’t as in the bag as it appeared to be. Smith losing here would have caused about as big of a riot as Bret losing in Montreal.

Smith is about as over here as Vince would be in a “Who’s got the biggest ego contest”. Shawn walks up the ramp for no apparent reason before coming back to the ring. Smith starts off by completely overpowering Shawn who again walks up the ramp. In a cool looking spot, with Shawn on the apron and looking away from the ring, Smith hooks him for a reverse suplex and just drops him back into the ring. It looks a lot better than it sounds.

Vince says he’s surprised Shawn didn’t break in half. Say that again in about four months Vinny. How many freaking big time matches have these guys had? They have the final SNME match, they have KOTR 97 and now this. That’s a lot for a series of big matches when you think about it, especially over that long of a stretch of time. Bulldog is ridiculously popular and is dominating.

Apparently he’s dropped about 20 pounds or so, which is about 2 stones. Vince says Shawn is in his prime. I don’t know about that, but it’s close enough. As Bulldog beats on him for a good while, here’s Rick Rude, who was the insurance policy for Shawn in what would form into DX. They had been hanging out lately but nothing concrete had happened yet.

We hit the sleeper now to kill off a bit of time which is fine by me. Lawler says not to adjust the TV. Who does that? I mean really, have you ever adjusted your TV? I certainly haven’t. The pace slows a lot with Shawn working on the arm, which means you know what’s coming. Yep, there it is, as Smith shows incredible power and picks up Shawn while he’s in an arm lock.

Here’s HHH and Chyna as I wonder WHERE ARE THE FREAKING HARTS??? Shawn starts his finishing sequence and goes for Chin Music in the corner of all places but Smith counters into the powerslam. Rude grabs the foot and we hit the floor where the kick connects. Rude and HHH beat on him as somehow the referee sees none of this which is just completely ridiculous but whatever.

HHH even hits the Pedigree on the floor. Apparently Davey is wearing a knee brace for a bad knee which hasn’t been mentioned until just now. Well alright then. HHH and Chyna help Shawn and pull him about 6 inches. Seriously, how can the referee not freaking notice this??? Now Rude interferes again as this is beyond stupid now. Oh apparently Bulldog slipped off the platform that the ring is on and hurt his knee.

Well that’s something I guess. The referee stops the match to give Shawn the title and the Grand Slam. There are rumors that Smith was supposed to win but Shawn and HHH played politics to get the win as close to two days before this show. Somehow, I could completely buy that. There was zero need for Shawn to win here, especially in a show never mentioned on American television.

I really don’t…oh you have got to be screwing with me. Shawn puts the hold back on and Smith’s wife gets in to help but is picked off by Chyna and BRET AND OWEN HART RUN IN FOR THE SAVE. WHERE IN THE HOLY WORLD WERE THEY FIFTEEN FREAKING MINUTES AGO??? COME ON VINCE WILL YOU FREAKING THINK ONCE IN YOUR LIFE??? THAT MAKES NO SENSE!

If they’re going to run in for the save NOW why not do it when there were three people cheating to help Shawn? DX poses forever to end this. Yeah, after that stupidity, I’d totally buy the HHH and Shawn politics thing.

Rating: B-. The ending here is just so stupid that it makes my head spin, which makes me really think Shawn and HHH had something to do with it. Honestly, what did Shawn gain here? Does anyone remember anything about his European title reign that had to do with him defending the belt? I certainly don’t.

Actually, I remember him losing it on the Christmas show to HHH after Slaughter made them fight because he hadn’t defended it in over two months. What in the world was the point of him getting it here other than to help his own ego? That makes zero sense. Other than that bringing this match WAY down and the Harts looking like idiots, this was a kind of slow match and overly long with the interference sucking the life out of it at the end. It’s not bad, but not great at all.

Now on to the final two, starting with what might be the best match of all time. From Wrestlemania XXV.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

Shawn comes down from the top of the set all in white, Undertaker comes through the stage in blackk, symbolizing heaven vs. hell. Now THAT is an entrance. Feeling out process to start with Shawn circling around Taker and sticking with a few jabs here and there. Michaels pounds away in the corner and hits a hard chop but taker catches an incoming right hand. Taker LAUNCHES him into the corner and nearly out to the floor, only for Shawn to jump off the top and over Undertaker to get away.

Shawn might have hurt his knee but he’s channeling his inner Bret by goldbricking. Taker will have none of that and throws Shawn into the corner for more punishment. Michaels comes back with chops in the corner but gets backdropped down to stop the momentum. Taker drives some shoulder into Shawn but Shawn takes him down with a clothesline. The reverse Figure Four (called a regular one by that idiot Michael Cole) has Taker in trouble but he finally slugs his way out of it.

Taker pounds way in the corner but has to stop to shake life back into his leg. Snake eyes and the big boot put Shawn down and a legdrop gets two (brother). A chokeslam is countered into the Crossface by Shawn but Taker rolls over onto his side to block a lot of the pressure. After an attempted rollup by Undertaker, Shawn cranks on the hold a bit more, only to have Taker fight up and hit a big side slam for two. Back up and they slug it out with Shawn taking over via a flying forearm.

There’s the nipup but Shawn doesn’t tune up the band. Instead it’s a pair of atomic drops and a clothesline but as Shawn goes up, he jumps into the chokeslam. He escapes THAT and tries the superkick but is too far away, meaning the kick only hits Taker’s chest. It puts Taker down so Shawn tries the Figure Four but Taker counters into Hell’s Gate. Shawn flails around and gets a foot on the rope for a fast break but he’s clearly staggered.

We head to the floor for a bit but Taker misses the apron legdrop. A baseball slide keeps Taker on the floor but as Shawn tries the moonsault to the floor, Taker moves and Shawn CRASHES onto the concrete. Back inside and Taker sits up and busts out the Taker Dive, only to overrotate and CRASH in a terrifying landing. Shawn thankfully pulled a cameraman in the way to block some of the impact but this scared me to death live.

Shawn tells the referee to count in a kind of mid-match heel turn but Taker makes it back in at nine. Another superkick attempt is ducked and a HUGE chokeslam gets an insanely close two. The fans are getting way into these near falls now. The Tombstone is countered, the superkick is blocked, the chokeslam is escaped and NOW the superkick hits for a very delayed two count. Shawn is up now and looks all ticked off.

Taker grabs him by the throat but the Last Ride is countered into a sunset flip bid, but THAT is countered into the biggest Last Ride ever for two. Watching this match for probably the fourth time I actually thought that was the finish. Think about that for a minute. Taker goes up top and misses a top rope elbow but as Shawn tries to skin the cat, Undertaker catches him in the Tombstone. He sticks the tongue out but THAT gets two, I believe making Shawn either the first or second guy ever to kick out of all three of Taker’s finishers.

Taker nearly collapses from the shock and has a look on his face saying he has no idea where to go now. Shawn spins out of a Tombstone bid into a DDT and both guys are down. Michaels slowly crawls to the top and drops the elbow for no cover. Instead he tunes up the band again and the fans are all over him as a result. The kick hits clean and Shawn covers almost immediately but it only gets two. These kickouts are getting better and better each time.

They fight up from their knees and use each other to pull themselves up before slugging it out with everything they’ve got. A big boot puts Shawn down but Taker charges into a boot in the corner to put him down. Shawn climbs up top and tries a moonsault press, but Taker somehow catches him in mid air for another Tombstone to make him 16-0, and that’s your match of the year.

Rating: A+. Masterpiece, excellent, classic, best match they’ve ever had, best match of all time candidate etc. Pick one, as they’re all appropriate. This is one of the only matches ever where I’ve been on the edge of my seat the entire time and lost my mind on the kickouts. Absolutely outstanding here and one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, and that covers quite a bit of ground.

And now, perhaps my favorite match ever, from May 2, 2005 on Raw.

Gold Rush Tournament First Round: Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels

This is the match that I was talking about. Shawn is back in the world title hunt after going after Muhammad Hassan for a few months. Shelton is on fire at this point so this is going to be great. They immediately hit the mat and Shelton dominates as you would expect him to. Shawn grabs a hammerlock and they hit the mat again. Shelton rides him again and Shawn has to head to the ropes to get a break.

Shelton takes him back to the mat but Shawn easily gets back up. A cradle gets two for Shawn out of nowhere and it’s followed by a forearm to take over. Shelton comes back with a clothesline and both guys go to the floor. We take a break and come back with Shelton countering a belly to back superplex into a cross body off the top but he can’t cover. Batista is watching in the back.

Shelton hits a Samoan Drop and both guys are down again. Things speed up and Shelton gets two off a backbreaker. Shawn hits the forearm and nips up, but Shelton nips up a second later, freaking Shawn out. We get a fast paced pinfall reversal sequence and Shawn takes Shelton down with a hard chop. Benjamin comes back with the Stinger Splash in the corner but the T-Bone is broken up.

Sweet Chin Music is caught and the Dragon Whip gets two. That sounded GREAT and JR’s commentary is only making this better. Shelton loads up a superplex but Shawn knocks him down and hits the elbow for two. Another Chin Music attempt is countered by a high kick for a VERY close two. Shelton jumps from the mat to the top rope and hits a spinning clothesline for another two. This is getting better and better with each kickout. Shelton gets sent to the apron and tries a springboard, but he jumps right into the Sweet Chin Music in an incredible spot. Shelton is DEAD and Shawn advances. That never gets old.

Rating: A+. It’s my favorite match ever. What grade did you expect me to give it? Also, this probably furthers Shawn’s record of most A+ matches for a single guy held by Shawn. The last few minutes of this has some of the best near falls on TV that I’ve ever seen. This is easily one of the best TV matches of all time. The only issue I have with it: what was Shelton going for at the end other than diving into the kick? I’ve never gotten that. The idea here was simple: Shawn was fighting himself from ten years ago. That’s very interesting and it worked like a masterpiece here.

He’s Shawn Michaels. I’m done.

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19 comments

  1. Mathix says:

    To this day I still cannot believe how overrated that Mania 25 match is.

    Ted Reply:

    For being so awesome?

    Mathix Reply:

    The problem is that it is a good match up until Taker botches his dive. After that it’s nothing but finisher kick out finisher kick out. I never once bought Michaels was going to end the streak. But hey its Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. They could have went out and played a game of checkers and people would have said it’s the greatest thing ever.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I’m on the opposite end: I totally bought the superkick as ending the Streak. They genuinely got me. Now the HHH match at Wrestlemania XXVII made me feel the same way you did: I never once bought the Streak as being in jeopardy.

    Mathix Reply:

    After Batista I pretty much knew the streak would never end. Obviously it did, and I am not taking anything away from Undertaker’s Mania matches as they are great, but with my mindset it was just hard to get emotionally invested knowing what the outcome was going to be.

    M.R. Reply:

    Actually most of Taker’s Mania matches weren’t great, alot of them were actually pretty awful. The streak is only impressive in length, not quality.

  2. M.R. says:

    Michaels, Benoit, Angle and Flair. My wrestling mount rushmore.

    Rocko Reply:

    Why is Stevie Richards on your Mount Rushmore?

    M.R. Reply:

    Am I missing the joke?

    Rocko Reply:

    It’s a common joke to refer to Benoit as Stevie Richards after that 2007 thing he did.

    M.R. Reply:

    Don’t get it but alrighty.

  3. Cockadoodledoo says:

    shawn michaels vs shelton benjamin in that tournament is one of my favorite matches of all time

  4. klunderbunker says:

    I totally get that. The first HHH match and the Punk match do nothing for me as I never felt it was in danger. The superkick into the Pedigree had me though, as did Shawn’s second superkick at WM 25. That’s why I like the match: I knew the ending but it still made me believe the impossible could happen.

    M.R. Reply:

    I was skeptical as to whether Triple H would lose to Taker three times, so needless to say that superkick into the pedigree had me holding my breath.

    Thriller Reply:

    I like 25, but think it’s overrated. The first of the back-to-back HHH matches is awful though. One the shittiest spot-fests I’ve ever seen.

  5. M.R. says:

    I don’t see how anyone could find the Wrestlemania 25 match overrated. It’s one of my five favorite matches of all time.

  6. Sandy says:

    I really like ur wrestler of the day segment.could u plz provide the link for the matches.it will be really awesome to watch those matches .

    klunderbunker Reply:

    That would be a bit too much to do. Most of these are already done and I can just copy and paste them over. I’m sure most of them can be easily found on Youtube.

  7. Sandy says:

    Ok thank u kb.keep the good work going