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Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Favorite Wrestlemania Match

In my previous post I discussed my first Wrestlemania memory, that of Wrestlemania 14. To this day it is still my favorite Wrestlemania card. Next on the list, and only a paper width away from my favorite PPV card of all time, was Wrestlemania 25.
Now I can hear some of you already gasping for air and reaching for your mouse.......hang on one minute! Let me explain this properly. On paper Wrestlemania 25 looks like a massive let down. For some fans it truely was a let down and I understand that. Cena vs Edge vs Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship. Are you kidding me???? Yes I know the Big Show sucks (Cena too for some of you). HHH vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. Yes that feud again, been there done that. Mysterio vs JBL for the Intercontinental Championship. Finishes in less than 30 seconds. Yet these very ordinary looking matches on paper...........worked on the night. They were all entertaining in their own right and were backed up by some excellent matches on the under card.

Jeff Hardy vs Matt Hardy, probably their best singles performances in the WWE. Chris Jericho had a quick bout with three legends and the buzz following Mania was all about how good Ricky Steamboat still looked in the ring (despite the token appearance from Mickey Rourke).  The Money in the Bank ladder match was, in my opinion, the best ever. Big statement and I'm sure I'm in the minority with this but do yourself a favor and watch that match one more time. CM Punk prevailed for the second time but every participant went further over in this match including Kane and Finlay who had both gone stale as characters by this point.

These were all really good matches but one match on this card surprised me.

It remains my favorite Wrestlemania clash of all time.........and I never expected it to be so.

Am I a Michaels mark? Absolutely. Am I an Undertaker mark? Again yes I am. However in the lead up to Wrestlemania 25 I absolutely did not want this match to happen. I couldn't see the logic in this match happening at this stage in their careers. I watched the very first Hell In A Cell match between the two at "Bad Blood" in 1997 and thought "How could they ever top that match". It was the night Kane made his debut. I'm sure most of you either remember that match or have seen it. What was lost with Kane's debut that evening is just how good the actual match was. It was an outstanding match and cemented the "Hell In A Cell" concept. It's one of the few remaining specialty matches that survived the end of the Attitude Era. (How often do you see a casket match or first blood match these days?).
So as a mark for both guys I just couldn't see how a stock standard, basic one on one clash would top that. I clearly forgot who these guys were. I think its the last time we saw Undertaker in any kind of physical shape to put on a great performance. I also think this match was Shawn Michaels gift to his fans. And it's also the last time I thought the Undertakers streak was in any real danger of being ended. In other words I could see VKM ending the streak and giving the honor of breaking it to Micheals.

The drama of this match began during the entrances.

Has there ever been a better entrance to a wrestling match than Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25? In my opinion simply no. In the led up Michaels had been built up as the light. Descending from above the Tritontron, Michaels gave thanks to his God like a preacher giving a sermon and then gave the audience what it desperately wanted......."I'm Just a Sexy Boy". The entrance fit the match, the man and the audience perfectly. Well played WWE.

Then came the Undertaker

Ascending from the floor like a true creature of the night. The Undertaker's entrance has never been anything for me but breath taking. For me it never gets old, and I always get goosebumps watching it. This entrance was perfection. It fit the moment perfectly. Light versus Dark. Mr. Wrestlemania vs the Wrestlemania Streak. For the first time since the match had been announced...........I thought this might just work.

The match itself was well paced, brilliantly sold and well executed barring one Micheal's missed step of the top rope late in the match. It was one of the few matches in which multiple finishing maneuvers were used in which I could believe the story that was being told in the ring. (In other words, these guys are legends, fair enough, it deserves more than one tombstone or one sweet chin music to end this).

The following is a run down of the match according to "Wikipedia" It's surprisingly accurate.

"The match started out with a fast pace by both men going for strikes to have them countered before Michaels feigned a knee injury to gain the advantage. This led to an exchange of signature moves and submission holds, which saw Michaels able to escape The Undertaker's Hell's Gate and dodge multiple attempts at the chokeslam while his adversary blocked attempts at Michaels' Sweet Chin Music. The action went to the outside of the ring with Michaels attempting a moonsault, only to have The Undertaker stop the attempt. This was followed by The Undertaker doing a suicide dive over the top rope, only to have Michaels dodge the attack and pull the nearby cameraman into harms way. The Undertaker hit The Last Ride and Chokeslam, and Michaels hit the Sweet Chin Music at two points in the match. Both men were unable to win through these moves. The Undertaker even hit Michaels with a massive Tombstone Piledriver, but Shawn kicked out. Undertaker finally won the match after Michaels ascended the top rope, attempting to perform another moonsault only to be caught in mid-air by The Undertaker and hit another Tombstone Piledriver and pinning him."

When Undertaker caught Michaels in mid air, Tombstoned him, and then pinned him the emotions I felt I have never experienced before as a wrestling fan. I stood, aplauded, sat back down and exhaled. Man that was intense. I was stoked that Taker had won, but shattered that Micheals had lost. For those who believe face versus face can never work in a big PPV..........this match extends its middle finger and says "Really? Really? Really?..........Really? (In a much better way than the Miz attempts it) There were no losers in this match. WWE tried again the following year to re capture the magic this match delivered. They failed to do so but not by much. Difference????? At Mania 26 we all knew the result. We knew Michaels was retiring and we knew that if they didn't let Michaels break the streak on the back of that performance......It wasn't happening at Mania 26.

Undertaker versus Shawn Micahels, Wrestlemania 25, my favorite match of all time. I would love to hear about your favorite match. Leave a comment, tell me about your favorite match. In my next post I'll tell you about my favorite Wrestlmania moment of all time...........and I promise no Shawn Michaels. :)

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