Two legendary performers forced much of WrestleMania 22's focus onto themselves with seared flesh, open wounds and a succession of weapons.
Rey Mysterio's unlikely championship win is well remembered, but much of that talk after that night in the Allstate Arena was about the wondrously violent show Edge and Mick Foley put on.
Edge vs. Mick Foley is the type of match you can pop in for a non-wrestling fan, a way to get them intrigued by the strange, macabre world of WWE. It is not though just a series of intense spots, two dudes just randomly whacking each other with weapons.
Besides being the best match of 2006's rendition of WWE's premier event, it told a compelling story.
Foley and Edge’s feud began in banal fashion. Edge was frustrated with The Hardcore Legend after it was Foley's refereeing that he believed caused him to lose his WWE title.
The buildup that followed brought out the best in both men.
Edge taunted Foley into the match, offering him a chance to create a defining WrestleMania moment. He called him soft, past his prime, a teddy bear.
Foley reminded fans why he has been so respected on the mic for so long.
In his interviews leading up to WrestleMania 22, Foley talked of unleashing his old, hardcore self again.
"You've awoken something inside me that was sleeping for too long."
Edge and Foley delivered upon that compelling buildup.
Edge stormed down to the ring with a baseball bat in hand and Lita at his side. Foley surprisingly appeared to be unarmed.
Fans soon saw that he had outsmarted the Ultimate Opportunist by fashioning a belt out of barbed wire and goading Edge to spear him. The first bloodshed of the night came early courtesy of that wicked fashion statement.
Blood trailed from a gash on Edge's arm.
What followed was a series of shots to the head with cookie sheets, barbed wire whippings, a stomach-churning brawl that continually wowed the Chicago crowd.
The combatants told a story of two maniacs willing to put their bodies through anything to win, to endear themselves to fans.
They took each other on a journey of pain and torture.
Foley lived up to his reputation of a man who does not fear pain, whose imagination often steers toward savagery. Edge had stepped into a python's pit thinking the snake had been tamed by age.
They proved their toughness and their capacity for cruelty to each other.
Edge slung Foley around. He hip tossed him awkwardly into the steel steps. He smacked Foley's head onto the entrance ramp with a resounding echo.
When Edge poured lighter fluid on Foley's flannel, fans had to doubt that WWE could follow through with that bit of foreshadowing. Setting a man on fire was too far, right?
The gruesome action may have put those thoughts out of many minds. Foley and Edge ground barbed wire into each other's brows until both men were busted open.
Foley as always, wore the crimson mask like few others, enjoying it, grinning through the smear of red.
As the match carried on, Foley became a professor of sadism. His student Edge felt tacks pierce his back, the teeth of a barbed bat on his forehead.
Lita played a vital role, interfering several times.
Her first attempt to help Edge got her flipped over the ropes as Foley Cactus lotheslined both her and Edge at the same time. Later, she'd regret stepping in as Foley gave her mouth full of sock and barbed wire.
In the end, she did manage to shift the advantage to her man.
The climax to this personal war stands out among all the bloodshed, stands out from the rest of WrestleMania 22.
Lita set a table on fire and Edge speared Foley through the flames.
There are precious few WWE wrestlers past or present who would conceive and execute such a dangerous spot.
Foley and Edge's legacy will be heightened by that moment and defined by their willingness to go farther than everyone else, to view their bodies simply as props to use in the theater of violence.
Their WrestleMania 22 hardcore match was far more than that single gasp-inducing moment. It was the culmination of a well-told story, a stunning achievement.
Mick Foley got his WrestleMania moment. Edge was seen as a survivor, able to face Foley's strength head on and come out the victor.
Fans received the gift of a compelling, brutal match that we'll never forget.
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