Douces Wild: Top 10 Matches From The Third Decade of Wrestlemania (21-30)

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With Wrestlemania just a few days away……here is the final part of my trilogy. This was tough, it took a lot of hard work to accomplish but I’m glad I got to challenge my (in my opinion) lackluster writing skills. Once again, the list is based off my opinion…..how I rank the matches is not fact…..it’s just a matter of opinion. If you disagree with me about something on the list and have another choice, by all means, we can discuss it! I love debating and I love discussing wrestling with people who love it and have different opinions. So by all means, I welcome different opinions and views! Enough of me rambling, let’s get on to the matches…….oh and by the way, expect A LOT of Shawn Michaels on this list:

#10: Wrestlemania XXIX: Undertaker vs CM Punk

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Sometimes, in wrestling, things happen that we do not expect. One of the most unexpected moments in wrestling history occurred when Percy Pringle aka Paul Bearer passed away during the early months of 2013……right in the middle of the buildup to Wrestlemania. Up to this point, the build for this match was weak as hell. Punk won a Fatal 4-Way to earn a shot at the Undertaker’s Streak and that’s about it. However, Pringle’s death gave them something……something that they didn’t have to use but decided to use anyway. The buildup went from Punk challenging the Streak to Punk playing psychological mind games with the Undertaker at the expense of Paul Bearer’s death. Punk mocked the Undertaker, Paul Heyman dressed up as and mocked Paul Bearer, Punk poured Bearer’s “ashes” onto Undertaker……it was a very controversial storyline. However, it was one that…….honestly enough…….didn’t exactly offend me. I know that CM Punk is not exactly talking about Paul Bearer the actual human being but Paul Bearer the character……hell, the Undertaker technically tried to kill Paul Bearer the “character” in 2004!! The WWE has run more tasteless storylines in the past for no real reason……I thought this one gave extra fire to the match, gave it some actual purpose and I thought it motivated both men to go out there to steal the show.

Punk said, on the podcast with Colt Cabana, that he wrestled this match with a chip on his shoulder……it’s hard not to deny that. Punk was a machine in this one, desperately doing anything he could to get the upper hand over the Dead Man, physically and mentally. Hell, he even used Old School!! Taker, for his part, still looked pretty solid in this one. Sure, Punk took a brunt of the damage and punishment (hence why he had to leave right after the match) but Taker held his own (in fact, reports said that he actually was quite fine after the match). Both men exchanged big moves and people actually thought that Punk could actually end the Streak. Eventually Taker put Punk away, paid homage to his fallen manager and friend (which is why I didn’t have a problem with it…….it’s not like they ran it into the ground like they did Eddie Guerrero’s death) and walked off into the sunset. However…..to play devil’s advocate…..this match shouldn’t have happened. I believe the Undertaker should have retired at XXVIII after his End of An Era match because he didn’t need this win and he didn’t need to come back. The Streak would have happily been at 20-0 and he would have retired on top…..two years later, the Streak’s ended and Taker continues to come back.

#9: Wrestlemania XXX: Daniel Bryan vs Triple H

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It’s a story that’s been around for a long time in wrestling: the underdog fighting from underneath against the evil authority figure. It’s a storyline that always works if done right and will have the crowd on the edge of their seats as well. At Summerslam 2013, we thought that’s exactly what we were getting. Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena for the WWE Title in an epic wrestling match……only for Triple H to attack Bryan, hit the Pedigree and Randy Orton cashed in the MITB briefcase to win the title. Bryan got numerous shots at Orton’s belt over the coming months but always kept getting screwed out of the title. Once we got to Survivor Series, Bryan was put in a feud with the Wyatts and fans were still skeptical but here’s how I saw it: they are going to put him in the Rumble, have him win the Rumble then defeat Orton for the title at Mania. One wrinkle was thrown into that plan: Batista. Batista returned, won the Rumble and thus my idea was destroyed. However, through monstrous ovations and constant fan reactions, Daniel Bryan was put in this match to face off against The Game and whoever won would be in the main event against Orton and Batista.

First off, at age 44, Triple H was still in fantastic shape. Stephanie was also at her evil best in this one while Triple H got his epic entrance. Bryan was coming in with an injured shoulder so of course, that ended up being the Game’s point of attack. Despite all of the negativity levelled at Triple H, he knows what the hell he’s doing in the ring. He attacked Bryan’s shoulder and did it in a way to create the maximum amount of cheers from the fans. Bryan’s comebacks were well-timed, Stephanie interfered when she needed and had fantastic heel mannerisms on the floor, everything was in sync on this occasion. Bryan finally landed a huge flurry of moves and was able to put Triple H away with the running knee strike and thus was in the main event! And, to make things better, Triple H assaulted Bryan’s arm afterwards to add even more drama to the main event. The match is great stuff with Triple H rolling back the years and putting on a great performance and leading Bryan through a great match. Bryan’s no slouch either and he looked right at home going one on one with Triple H on the grandest stage of them all. While this match was originally not supposed to be happened, I’m glad it did and I’m glad Triple H did the right thing by putting Bryan over…..CLEAN too! Even better, this match kicked the show off! So it’s right behind Bret/Owen in greatest Wrestlemania openers ever!

#8: Wrestlemania XXII: Hardcore Match: Mick Foley vs Edge w/Lita

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If you ever needed to create a new star, Foley was your guy! It’s hard to argue that the Undertaker, Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H, Randy Orton & Edge all got a massive push from having great matches and getting the rub from Foley! Edge was his pet project at this point since Edge was the future next main event star on the rise so they called up Foley and brought him back. The feud was pretty lackluster for the most part with Edge blaming Foley for costing him the WWE Title and Foley had his inner demons woken up. People knew the match was going to be great but these two were going to have to work extra hard to really suck the crowd in. Thankfully, that’s exactly what they did. The turning point came early on when Edge had control in the early portion was some usual hardcore brawling. It was nothing amazing, kind of like the feud, but it was working. Edge hit an early Spear but all of a sudden, he was writhing around in pain on the mat and his shoulder was bleeding…..ZUH??? Turns out, Foley WRAPPED HIMSELF IN BARBED WIRE underneath his flannel shirt and that’s when this match got REALLY good! Sick bumps from both guys, hard weapon shots, Lita taking a Mandible Claw from Socko wrapped in barbed wire (hell of a spot for her!) and of course, the coup de grace of Edge spearing Foley off the apron through a FLAMING table!! These two just went nuts with the spots……it’s almost as if things got personal right in the middle of the match and we didn’t really know how much these two really wanted to hurt each other. The violence is awesome, all three competitors busted their asses to make this one special and Foley got his Wrestlemania moment! Great stuff all around!

#7: Wrestlemania XXIII: WWE Title match: John Cena (c) vs Shawn Michaels

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I guess we can say one thing: THANKS, TRIPLE H, FOR TEARING YOUR QUAD AGAIN!!!! Haha, ok, I’m kidding but that’s how we got this match in the first place! It was supposed to be Cena/HHH II with Trips getting his win back but he tore his quad at New Year’s Revolution (the other quad, not the one he injured in 2001) so they decided to put Shawn Michaels in his place…..and my, Shawn was pretty freakin’ stoked about it. I’d almost say that the early months of 2007 was one of the greatest stretches of Shawn’s career……the man was just on another planet and you can tell the guy was ecstatic to finally get a big Wrestlemania title shot. The buildup to this one was the “reluctant partner” approach where these two became World Tag Team champions and everybody was waiting to see who was turning first (everybody knew it was going to be Shawn). Eventually, as expected, Shawn turned first and that set this match up.

What I loved about this match was how cocky and confident Shawn was in the early going, even when a fan got thrown out of the arena and Shawn’s just lying on the top rope waving goodbye! Shawn outwrestled Cena and showcased his veteran experience throughout the entire match. He knew he was better than Cena but wasn’t in your face about it (like Triple H was the year before) so it was up to Cena to figure out how to stop the Showstopper! Shawn’s assault on the leg was pretty damn awesome but what was not awesome was Cena’s lack of selling the leg throughout (apparently, Shawn got angry at Cena for it and rightfully so). The two did exchange huge moves down the stretch and the match reached an awesome fever pitch as it went along. Everybody thought that Shawn would actually have a chance of winning the title (I was rooting for him) and he came close on more than one occasion. However, Cena caught him in the STFU (and actually applied it CORRECTLY this time) and was able to get the tap out victory. With this match, I believe Cena cemented himself as the golden boy. His victory over Triple H was big but Triple H is more of a manufactured top guy while Shawn is a true legit top guy……plus, he beat Mr. Wrestlemania at Wrestlemania so that says a lot. Of course, this match would get blown away a few weeks later when these two went at it again for almost an hour in London in the MOTY but I still really enjoyed this one for the execution and the fact that it did have a big fight feel without being forced.

#6: Wrestlemania XXIV: Career Threatening Match: Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair

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When you reach the end of your career, it is hard to say goodbye. Some people just do not want to admit that their best days are behind them and they cannot recapture their glory of the past. Ric Flair was one of those men. Ric Flair was on top of the wrestling world in the 1980s……20 years later, he was a shell of his former self. He still had the charisma and the charm but Space Mountain wasn’t exactly functioning the way it used to. So, Vince McMahon decided to give Flair this stipulation: the next match he loses, his career is over. No one likes to be forced out of their career……and that’s how Flair took it. For months, Flair survived tons of challengers until one man, feeling pity for his old school hero, stepped up: Shawn Michaels. Ric Flair was Shawn Michaels’ favorite wrestler growing up, he idolized Flair and respected him. Flair wanted the match with Shawn because he wanted a Wrestlemania moment but Shawn didn’t want the burden of ending Flair’s career on his conscious. Flair demanded Shawn bring the REAL HBK to the proceedings. Things exploded with the famous “Old Yeller” line and Flair’s AWESOME explosion at the line to set this one up.

Let me be clear: 1988 Ric Flair would have been disappointed with this match. Flair was just older at this point, his body was breaking down and he couldn’t do the things he used to be able to do. However, on this night, the Flair of old came shining through. This was Flair’s best in-ring performance in a LONG time! Flair was busting out crossbodies off the top, double arm suplexes, regular suplexes, THE WORKS to keep his career against Shawn. Many complained about the messed up bridge spot (where Shawn couldn’t bridge up with Flair) but if you go back and watch the match, we remember the famous missed moonsault spot where Shawn landed midsection first through the announce table in a nasty spot…….the bridge spot followed that……so I’m glad they messed it up because it was great storytelling. Flair tried everything he could to continue to hang with Shawn and put him away but Shawn fired back with two super kicks to weaken Flair. Then came the final one: Shawn standing in the corner preparing, Flair slowly gets to his face and slowly faces him, the look of calm sadness engulfs Flair as he stands ready for it, Shawn says “I’m sorry, I love you!” and….BAM!!! Flair’s automatically in tears after the 3 count and Shawn’s hugging the holy hell out of him afterwards. It’s a fantastic match with tons of drama all the way through and let’s be honest: we all know Ric Flair’s career (sadly) did not end on this night but he will NEVER get a better sendoff than what he got here. I’ve accepted this match, not as a technical masterpiece, but as a perfect personification of what wrestling is if done right and this one just so happens to be one of them.

#5: Wrestlemania XXI: Money in the Bank Ladder match: Chris Jericho vs Edge vs Chris Benoit vs Christian w/Tyson Tomko vs Kane vs Shelton Benjamin

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One day, while brainstorming, Chris Jericho came up with an idea. He wasn’t on the Wrestlemania card and noticed that a bunch of other top mid-carders from RAW were not on there yet either. So he devised a match where these 6 men would face off in a ladder match where a briefcase, not a title, would be up for grabs. In that briefcase is a guaranteed title shot for one year to cash in whenever you like…..it was a hell of a concept. Whether we like it or not, the MITB concept has been a mainstay in the WWE for the past 10 years. It has created new stars, created amazing moments and elevated careers…..and it began with this match. Of course, the actual match has gotten a little played out to be honest……but if done right, the match really does its job pretty damn well. In this first match, everything about it was perfect. They took 6 of the top mid-carders on RAW, placed them in a ladder match and let them go nuts. We saw some amazing spots, amazing psychology (Benoit sold an arm injury throughout the match and it PLAYED INTO THE FINISH TOO!!!), a big match feel and even better……we didn’t know who was going to win! Of course, we remember this match as Shelton Benjamin’s breakout moment, especially with the ladder run clothesline to Jericho off a ladder! Benjamin became a mainstay in the match but he never replicated his performance in this match. Benoit was amazing in selling his arm and even got busted open hard way through the match (with a Swandive Headbutt off a ladder…..adding to his brain damage). At the end of the day, Edge won the match and eventually cashed in his briefcase in January 2006 at New Year’s Revolution. The match represented a new concept to the played out ladder match and it gave us something new to look forward to (kind of like the Royal Rumble) in the coming years but like any great match……the first one has yet to be topped.

#4: Wrestlemania XXVI: Career vs Streak: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker

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After losing to the Undertaker in an epic matchup at Wrestlemania XXV, Shawn Michaels disappeared. We know he disappeared to heel some nagging injuries and also was contemplating retirement but Shawn Michaels, the character, left the WWE to hide his face in shame. Triple H found him working in a soup kitchen and begged Shawn to come back and reform D-X……Shawn eventually agreed. The band was back together, they won the Unified Tag Team Titles and things appeared to be going great for the duo. Shawn even accepted the Slammy for Match of the Year……….but then he stopped. All of a sudden, the memories came rushing back and Shawn, defiantly, got on the microphone and challenged the Undertaker one……..more…….time. However, the Undertaker has nothing to gain from beating Shawn again……he’s already done it. So Shawn decides to win the Rumble and wants to face Taker (who was World champion)…….after a great performance in the Rumble, Shawn is eventually eliminated and doesn’t take kindly to it. D-X lose the Tag Titles, Shawn and Triple H’s friendship is in jeopardy, Shawn’s losing his mind and getting fined constantly…….facing the Undertaker was a drug for Michaels. He finally got his chance……by costing the Undertaker the World Title in the Elimination Chamber. However, Undertaker sweetened the deal: his Streak vs Shawn’s Career. Thus, we were privy to one of the greatest rematches in WWE history.

These two had 5 PPV matches against each other throughout their careers: Ground Zero 1997, Badd Blood 1997 in Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble 1998 in a Casket match, Wrestlemania XXV and here. All 5 matches are great. These two have that undeniable chemistry against each other that many cannot top or replicate. They are oil and water yet mix perfectly. This match was another fantastic example of that. Shawn was like a madman, throwing himself at Taker every chance he had and doing ANYTHING to stop the Undertaker……he was more worried about ending the Streak than saving his career. Taker kept throwing EVERYTHING at Shawn and vice versa but neither one wanted to give up. Shawn even ate a TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR but he STILL got back up. However, he just could not keep Shawn Michaels down and he getting suitably pissed off with Shawn’s defiant nature. Shawn landed a big move of his own by putting Taker through the announce table with the Asai Moonsault! Shawn gets one huge near fall with Sweet Chin Music, Taker got one with the Tombstone Piledriver and now, we were at an impasse. However, Shawn was now a beaten man…..he had nothing left to give. Taker sees this and tells Shawn to stay down, Shawn mocks Taker’s throat slash, Taker drops him with a JUMPING Tombstone and Shawn Michaels’ storied career is over. It’s not the XXV match but it is one of those rare rematches that goes in with everything against it and STILL being a fantastic match. Both men gave epic performances, the story was amazing, the action was wild, this was just a classic match between these two. Shawn left the WWE with one more Wrestlemania classic on his hands and thus he went out the way he needed to leave…..on top at Wrestlemania.

#3: Wrestlemania XXI: Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle

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The story is simple: Kurt Angle is a former Olympic gold medal winner, a true American hero and one of the top wrestlers on the roster…….yet why are his accomplishments overshadowed by Shawn Michaels? When Kurt won the gold medal, Shawn won his first WWF Title……both men got a lot of press during that time. Angle wasn’t exactly jealous, he was angry that despite his accomplishments, people wanted to continue to talk about the legend of Shawn Michaels so Angle decided to destroy the legacy…….by mocking it. After Angle viciously assaulted HBK at the Royal Rumble and lost to John Cena at No Way Out in a #1 Contender’s Tournament, Angle spent the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania by doing everything Shawn had done in his career but doing it better. For instance, he faced a local competitor in a Ladder match to mock HBK’s Wrestlemania 10 match and won pretty quickly (“That wasn’t so hard!”-Angle or something to that effect), had Sensational Sherri come out and do a duo with her over Shawn’s entrance theme (Angle was awesome in this) and made Shawn’s former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, tap out in the Ankle Lock after a competitive match. The stage was set: the Wrestling Machine vs the Icon.

After spending months getting into Shawn’s head with mind games, Shawn had a few tricks of his own on this night (and looked great, he got himself into amazing shape to hang with Kurt). Hell, Shawn dug into his own bag of tricks and proceeded to go with the strategy that worked at Wrestlemania XII…..he would outwrestle the wrestler. Angle was overconfident so Shawn used that to his advantage by suckering Angle in and outwrestling him by using the simple but effective headlock. Angle eventually fought back and took control with a big Angle Slam into the ring post. He proceeded to decimate Shawn’s injured back and work him over but Shawn kept fighting back. This led into a huge third half of the match where Shawn splashed Angle while he was on the announce table, Angle hit a rope run Angle Slam off the top rope, we got a flurry of near falls and an amazing amount of drama. The fans were split the entire match, they had no one to boo and just cheered both guys on for their amazing performances in this match. Shawn popped Kurt out of nowhere with Sweet Chin Music but it was only for a near fall. However, Shawn took too long to get to his feet, Angle quickly swiped the ankle and applied the Ankle Lock. Shawn battled in the hold for 2 minutes but he just could not get out of the hold, no matter how hard he tried. Angle even applied the heel hook, making it even worse for Shawn Michaels to try and escape. Shawn eventually had no choice but to tap out at Wrestlemania to Kurt Angle. This is a fantastic wrestling match by these two and it lived up to all the hype. Many prefer the Vengeance rematch over time but I still put this one as the superior match because there was more story involved here. Shawn put over Kurt Angle HUGE on this night (only for the WWE to ruin it with the infamous “Gutter Slut” storyline a few months later with Sharmell and Booker T) and Angle looked like an absolute killer: he just made Shawn Michaels tap out at Wrestlemania! It’s a thrilling matchup and one dream match I’m glad we got to see.

#2: Wrestlemania XXVIII: End of An Era Hell in a Cell match: The Undertaker vs Triple H  Special Referee: Shawn Michaels

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At Wrestlemania 27, Taker and Triple H faced off in a big match. Triple H wanted revenge for Taker retiring his best friend and wanted to prove that he had what it takes to end the Streak. Triple H already got his shot at the Streak back in 2001…..however, he’s older and wiser this time so he knew what to do and how to destroy the Undertaker. After a near 30 minute match, Triple H had battered the Undertaker to the point where Taker could hardly stand and it appeared imminent that Triple H was ending the Streak……until Taker grabbed Hell’s Gate. Triple H tapped out……but Taker left on a stretcher. In that time, Triple H became the COO of the company, beat both CM Punk and Kevin Nash and was on top of the world…..until the Undertaker returned. However, Triple H wasn’t sweating him but why? He lost! Well…..the character of Triple H has a gigantic ego and due to this giant ego, he will not admit that he lost. Why? Because he won the war….in his mind. For the first time in a long time, Taker is actually calling someone out…..it isn’t the other way around. Triple H didn’t back down on his stance for weeks, even with Shawn Michaels trying to talk him into beating the Streak. However…..one comment made Hunter change his mind: Taker said that Shawn Michaels was better. In that one comment, Triple H’s entire career flashed before his eyes. No matter his accomplishments, no matter if he married the boss’ daughter, no matter if he’s the future owner of the company, he will still always be seen as Shawn Michaels’ buddy in people’s eyes (even the fans). However, by ending the Streak, Triple H would prove everybody wrong. Even better…..in a stroke of genius……the match was made into a Hell in a Cell match……a match where both men have a combined 19 appearances in……it was perfect.

The match was not that different from their Wrestlemania 27 match but with a few new tweaks. First off was Undertaker’s new appearance with the shaved head and mini-hawk. Still, these two engaged in a very long and brutal war between the two of them with HBK right in the middle……the wild card in this equation. Triple H eventually began to dominate, hammering Taker with chair shot after chair shot, yelling at him to stay down but Taker kept getting back up. At one point, Shawn went to ring the bell but Taker choked him out with Hell’s Gate to make sure he didn’t stop the match for anything. However, it eventually set up one of the greatest near falls in history: Sweet Chin Music into the Pedigree but Taker kicked out!!! Triple H even kicked out of the Tombstone Piledriver but afterwards, he had nothing left. He gave Taker a defiant crotch chop but Taker leveled him with the sledgehammer (Triple H’s own weapon), gave him the Tombstone and won the match. Afterwards, all three men walked up the ramp together to showcase the supposed End of an Era. Many believed that Triple H and Taker were finally going to join Shawn in retirement, considering Triple H was going to be running the company and Taker didn’t need to come back (THIS is where he should have retired…..at 20-0), but that ended up not being the case. Triple H and Taker continued to wrestle to this day (turns out “End of An Era” means about as much as “Once in a Lifetime” in WWE logic) but this match is what should be an amazing moment to end the Attitude Era, end that era of WWE history and move on. That wasn’t exactly the case…….but at least we got a classic match out of it.

#1: Wrestlemania XXV: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker

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You knew this one was coming. Basically, Shawn Michaels had done it all in his career but he was feeling frisky in 2009. Wrestlemania was coming up……he didn’t have an opponent…….what’s the one thing that he has not done at Wrestlemania?? Why…..CHALLENGE THE UNDERTAKER’S STREAK OF COURSE!!! So, Shawn laid the challenge and the Undertaker accepted. Now, as we all know, Taker is a very intimidating presence….half the battle is already in his favor due to the mind games that he plays. However, Shawn was not scared……Shawn had no fear……Shawn had Jesus on his side. That was basically it: Shawn had the power of God on his side. He would be the white light to vanquish the Undertaker’s darkness at Wrestlemania and though he will walk through the valley of the shadow of death……he would fear no evil because he had God on his side……it was a match everybody was waiting to see. On a card that really wasn’t blowing everybody away, this was the standout match by some mile. Everybody was expecting a classic…..we expected nothing less. What we got was exactly what we wanted: a true Wrestlemania classic.

The story here was that Taker was bigger and Shawn had to rely on his speed, quickness and experience. Shawn had to chop the Dead Man down to size by attacking the legs and the strategy worked for a good while. Taker had the upper hand while he was standing but down on the mat, Shawn had the true advantage, even applying the Figure Four at one point. However, the match headed to the floor and this is where things take a turn for the better……after a horrible moment. First, Shawn MISSES a moonsault press to the floor (NASTY bump for Shawn to take at his age) and Taker set up for his Wrestlemania dive. Sim Snuka was there as the cameraman and his job was to take the move. However, Snuka didn’t get into correct position and Taker spiked himself into the mats on the floor below!! It was a horrible experience and a horrible spot where people were legitimately concerned for Taker’s life afterwards! Thankfully……he was ok and I think the spot adds a lot to the match in that it showed Taker’s desperation to stop Shawn but he miscalculated and it damn near cost him dearly. For the first time, Shawn had Taker truly on the ropes. After that, we had a barrage of near falls between the two, including an AMAZING kick out of the Tombstone by Shawn. Shawn couldn’t get the win with the super kick so now they were at an impasse. Shawn tried one more desperate move: a moonsault press again. And once again, it failed. Taker caught him, Tombstone Piledriver……victory. This match saved the show and was truly fitting of its 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania billing. The rest of the show couldn’t keep up because of it but it was a classic wrestling match between two 40+ year old men who went out there, defied the odds and stole the show. There have not been many matches like this over the past few years……so I am glad that we got this one when we did and it was a truly classic match for what it was.

 

Once again, I hope everybody enjoyed the lists. My email is crater044@gmail.com if you ever want to talk or chat or discuss or debate or anything. See you guys after Wrestlemania!

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