Nothing beats watching a match and seeing a great contest seem to be close to an end. One competitor is so close to winning the match. Suddenly, the match is not quite over and shock quickly surrounds the crowd. It's called a false finish and it can often turn a good match into a great match.
A false finish becomes pretty common in most matches, but it is the really good matches that always seem to have the best false finishes. The belief that a match is about to be over, only to see it continue, is enough to get any crowd invested in how the match will actually end.
Often times, the false finishes become a part of the mystique for a great match. You may not recall exactly how The Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV, but most wrestling fans can remember this image of a shocked and mentally exhausted Undertaker, who can't do much more than be in disbelief from Michaels kicking out.
It is the closest thing that the world of pro wrestling has to overtime, so let's recap 10 of the most shocking moments where the clock struck zero and the fight was still not over.
It's WrestleMania VII and Randy Savage, known at that time as "Macho King," was doing battle with The Ultimate Warrior. This wasn't a match that had a title on the line, but something much more important. This was a Retirement match, meaning that the loser would have to retire from the squared circle. We know now that with these two, much like with most wrestlers, they just couldn't stay retired. Regardless, at the time, this was a big deal to see one of these fan favorites wrestling what many believed would be their last match.
With victory in sight, Savage hit his patented elbow from the top rope, which has put away countless superstars over the years. It has won Savage many of his championships and accolades and was responsible for some of his greatest victories. With The Ultimate Warrior lying in the middle of the ring, Savage hit that elbow drop...five times.
As he finally went to cover him, The Ultimate Warrior kicked out prior to three and the match would continue. After more than 20 minutes of action, Savage would end up losing the bout and retire to commentary.
This match from an episode of Smackdown from last year was actually pretty underrated in terms of great matches. Kane and Randy Orton had a great match on this night that did not quite end the way that others have ended.
Usually, with an Orton match, The Viper can either take a beating or dish one out. Regardless, when the Apex Predator strikes with an RKO, an opponent is usually just three seconds away from a loss.
In this case, however, Kane lived to fight for a little bit longer. Orton's face in this moment says it all. It is rare that an RKO doesn't end a match, especially given the way it has been used since Orton joined Smackdown. The fact that such a lethal move like that could cause only a near fall, especially on such a small stage, was certainly a shock.
Not every false finish includes a pinfall attempt. All that a false finish has to do is imply the end of a match in one way, only to see it not come true and have the match continue. That was the case on an episode of RAW in 2002, when youngster Jeff Hardy took WWE Undisputed Champion The Undertaker to the limit. In a ladder match, Hardy seemed to feel like he had more than a puncher's chance.
As The Undertaker was knocked to the floor, Hardy would be a fingertip away from reaching the belt and pulling off such an incredible upset. The excitement, including the fantastic call by Jim Ross on commentary, can still give goosebumps as it gets watched. In the end, The Undertaker retained, but the world would recognize Jeff Hardy that night as a guy deserving of a world championship someday.
WrestleMania 21 "went Hollywood" and had multiple big-time matches. On a night where both John Cena and Batista would claim world championships, this match between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels had a chance to steal the show. This wasn't really for anything important. This was basically a grudge match between two great competitors.
Before Angle could pull off the victory against Mr. WrestleMania, Michaels had the Olympic gold medalist lying on the canvas and covered him for the win. The third and final count was nearly touching the ground when Angle finally got the shoulder up. It was so close that even commentators were asking if it was over or not. It may have been planned, but it sure looked like Angle almost forgot to kick out at that moment.
This was not the only fantastic false finish from this WrestleMania.
On an episode of Smackdown that aired in October 1999, The British Bullog was having a WWF Championship match against Triple H, the champion at the time. The Bulldog was in control of the champion and seemed poised to claim his first world championship with the company. The problem was that The Rock, a man that The Bulldog was not fond of, was the special guest referee. The Rock wished he was in the match and not deciding the match, but he still took the time to have fun with it.
Many can see this as a classic Rock moment. Not wanting to deal with either man, The Rock spent a lot of the match talking on commentary and pandering to the Long Island crowd. When the champion was covered and seemed to be about to lose his title, The Rock rushed into the ring, counted to two and would not count to three. He then attacked both participants and landed what is still the coolest People's Elbow on The British Bulldog.
At New Year's Revolution in early 2006, Edge tried to do something that had never been done before. With the briefcase he had earned months before, Edge was the first man to attempt to cash in a Money in the Bank opportunity. He waited until a weakened John Cena was barely able to stand and was bloodied from an Elimination Chamber match.
Nobody had ever seen a man cash in an opportunity quite like this before, so the moment was just so surreal for everyone involved. Edge marched to the ring as Cena began to stand up. The bell rang and Edge hit a damaging spear to the champion. As the count began by the referee, Cena refused to lose the title at that moment. We now know that the Money in the Bank briefcase all but guarantees a world championship win, but in this first instance, anything seemed possible.
What actually happened was another spear from Edge and the first of many world championship reigns began for The Rated-R Superstar.
WrestleMania 21 has yet another great false finish. As The Undertaker attempted to win yet another WrestleMania match, he had to deal with the young and exciting Randy Orton. Orton made a cozy place for himself on the top of the roster after this match. With the end probably in sight, The Undertaker grabbed Orton by the throat to chokeslam him. Instead, Orton countered into an absolutely unbelievable RKO.
A crawl to a cover and a slow three-count helped The Undertaker kick out and continue the match a little bit longer. It would end, as many Undertaker matches at WrestleManias do, with The Deadman performing a Tombstone piledriver for the win.
April 17, 2000 may have been the day where Chris Jericho's rise to prominence in WWE officially began.
Off the heels of a European Championship win at WrestleMania 2000 and a loss of the title the following night, Jericho was in need of direction. His hatred of a guy like Triple H was still a budding rivalry. Jericho would gain a WWF Championship match that night against the champion, Triple H.
After the first referee was incapacitated, senior referee Earl Hebner came in to officiate the rest of the match. Triple H was having his issues with Hebner and pushed him, giving enough of a distraction for Y2J. Jericho hit a few moves and covered the champion. A fast count by Hebner seemed to give Jericho the world championship as the entire crowd on the campus of Penn State seemed to roar in approval.
The decision would not stand, as the fast count led to the decision being reversed. It ended up paying dividends for Jericho, who would be a world champion the following year. It wasn't quite a false finish, but it was a finish that would not stand as official, so I'll count it onto the list.
A dream match became a reality at the 25th WrestleMania. Shawn Michaels, who had performed in so many great matches over the years and was dubbed "Mr. WrestleMania," took on The Undertaker, who was undefeated at the event. Something had to give, and it was so much fun to see what would happen.
Remember what I said before about how almost every WrestleMania match for The Undertaker ends with The Deadman performing a Tombstone piledriver to his opponent? Well, this was that moment.
Michaels was down and out and it was all academic from here. But if anyone was going to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania, it was probably going to be Michaels. As The Undertaker posed for his 17th WrestleMania victory, Michaels kicked out and the match wore on. There wasn't a person watching that could believe what they were seeing. The Undertaker would end up coming out on top, but not before such an iconic moment.
Apparently, not even another man performing the Tombstone piledriver at WrestleMania is a guaranteed victory. The Undertaker has had many attempt his finishing move over the years, but few are successful on such a grand stage like WrestleMania. Moreover, nobody had been successful enough to defeat him at the event. That streak continued at this past WrestleMania.
In his second attempt at breaking The Streak, Triple H had done all he could do to The Undertaker. Even still, The Undertaker kicked out of his own finishing move. It was so shocking that Triple H retreated in fear. The Deadman was in such terrible shape at the end of that match that kicking out like that made it all the more impressive. After such a damaging match, even with a 19-0 record, it seems like The Undertaker's streak will never end.