The People’s Column: Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania Review

Dear friends, a month ago, when Shawn Michaels agreed to put his career on the line against The Undertaker’s streak, I undertook a project. This project was not exactly big or bold, but it was one of the more exciting things I have agreed to do. I decided to watch the entirety of Shawn Michael’s Wrestlemania library.

We begin with the tag years at Wrestlemania V. Now, before I go further, I want you to know that these are brief overviews and opinions, not full recaps. That’s not my style, and if you would like to read it, check out some Scott Keith rants. The early tag matches all seemed very similar. Win or lose, there were the same classic Rockers spots in all of them. To be honest, tag team wrestling does not always excite me (unless it includes some amazing tag teams), and these matches are not all that different in that respect. Some people will watch them and say that they knew then what HBK would become, but that probably isn’t true.

The early singles run is the first place that Michaels showed the superstar qualities that would personify his career. He opened Wrestlemania VIII in his first singles match at the big show. Although I don’t know why Tito Santana was a matador, the two managed to have a pretty decent match. This was also the debut of “Sexy Boy” as HBK’s theme, only this version is sung by Sheri and not Shawn himself. This was a fast encounter, which made me wonder what would have happened if these two had met in their primes.

Wrestlemania IX featured HBK’s first Wrestlamania in a title match, sadly this would be the opening Intercontinental Championship match. Shawn had his 90’s style entrance attire for this one. His opponent, Tatanka really brought it for this one. Both men were given almost 20 minutes to get it done, and get it done they did. The finish was pretty weak on this one, which put a damper on a great match. It just seems wrong to me to have a non-finish at Wrestlemania. Randy Savage was on commentary for this match. That just seems wrong considering some of the talent (or lack thereof) that was on this show.

Of course, what more can be said about the ladder match at Wrestlemania X? HBK stole the show with a ladder and carried Razor Ramon behind him. We all know that this match was revolutionary in many ways. It led to the modern spot-fest and evolved in the Money in the Bank match that we look forward to every year.

Wrestlemania XI gave us HBK’s first Wrestlemania semi-main event. They were overshadowed by LT and Bam Bam, but they delivered a strong performance, which should be credited to Michaels. Of course Michaels was in the ring with a Clique member, meaning that he would work twice as hard to get the match over. This match is not as good as their In Your House 1996 match, but it is still decent.

The crowning moment in the Heartbreak Kid’s legacy took place at Wrestlemania XII. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels delivered a great four star match. Many people have said that this match was overrated, and that the two men’s egos got in the way. While multiple falls would have built drama, there was a lot gained by both men in the one fall setup that they used. For a long time, this was considered the best main event in ‘Mania history, and it is definitely in the top five.

It is worth mentioning that although he was not on either card, Michaels appeared at both Wrestlemania’s 13 and XV.

Wrestlemania XIV might have been the most difficult match of HBK’s life. He went in with two herniated disks in his back and put Steve Austin over strongly. Michaels can be credited with being the man who began the Austin era, by putting on a strong performance in defeat. The pain in Michaels’ face is noticeable in this match. There are strong rumors that The Undertaker had to persuade HBK to drop the title to Austin. This is understandable because of the back injury. Also, in the end, HBK did the job, thus baring any Montreal like circumstances in Boston. This began a long absence for ‘Mania for Michaels.

The first part of HBK’s Wrestlemania run was characterized by the phrase often uttered on commentary that “No one had ever outperformed Shawn Michaels in a big match situation.” It was hype then, but no one knew how true that phrase would become.

The comeback to the grand stage was at Wrestlemania XIX. Shawn Michaels was facing one of his greatest rivals, Chris Jericho. This was the best match that the two of them would ever have. Doubts raged in our minds about wether or not HBK could get it done like he could back in the day. After this match, there was no doubt that the show-stopper had returned to form.

Of course he was a part of the Wrestlemania XX main event with HHH and Chris Benoit. Shawn seemed to be the glue that held this match together. IT was not made ot showcase him. It was not HBK’s night. However he worked hard to get the match and Benoit over. It’s worth mentioning that Shawn bled buckets of blood in this match. One of my favorite moments in this match was HBK and HHH double teaming Benoit and then HBK standing in the ring telling HHH to bring it.

Kurt Angle was next up on HBK’s list of classics. This match was exactly that, classic. This match was possibly the most anticipated of the evening, and it completely lived up to that anticipation. Perhaps it is redundant to say at this point, but this was a very different and classic match for these two men. It started slow, but eventually burned fast and furious. Angle was still a great wrestler at this point and was able to keep up with HBK. Many people considered this a near perfect match, but they had no idea what would happen four years later.

The next task may have been the most difficult that Michaels has ever faced. He had to carry the 60 year old Vince McMahon to a passable match. They pulled out all the stops and used all of the run-ins and tricks that they could. It was enough in the end for HBK to get his vengeance on the owner of WWE.

What followed was a serendipitous situation that led to Michaels main eventing Wrestlemania 23. John Cena was being booed more often than cheered at this point. Michaels was the obvious favorite to win. Most fans just wanted to see one more championship run for HBK. Of course by the end of the match, the fans had been worked into a frenzy, cheering both men. Shawn Michaels tapped out to the STFU, but left after having pulled Cena’s best match out of him to date.

There is not much that can be said about Ric Flair’s “final match” with Shawn Michaels. Michaels worked hard to make Flair look 15 years younger. Flair did his part also and the two delivered a match with an emotional climax that had never been seen before at Wrestlemania.

And now we come to the big one. The match that was being touted at the biggest and best in ‘Mania history before it even happened. Of course, that is Mr Wrestlemania vs The Undertaker, who is undefeated at the event. This was a classic like many people anticipated. I still could not believe what I was watching. As the match rolled on, the fans, both live at the event and in my living room got louder and louder. This was the greatest match in ‘Mania history.

It almost seems like a prophesy that has come true, “No one has ever outperformed Shawn Michaels in a big match situation.” Of course today he is called Mr Wrestlemania. Michaels has the reputation of pulling out the stops at Wrestlemania. Sunday will be no different! Sunday night, perhaps that last chapter of this book will be written. It will be a phenomenal contest, showing just what Michaels and Undertaker are capable of. I honestly believe that this is the year that the streak ends, but I could be very wrong.

I’ll be back towards the beginning of the week with a live perspective on ‘Mania. Enjoy the biggest weekend in wrestling friends! Leave me some comments about what you think the best HBK ‘Mania match is!

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