WrestleMania Phenomenon: Looking at WrestleMania Through the Performer's Eyes
Watching Jesse "The Body" at Grandma Jesse's house, being told off by one half of the Wild Samoans Sika, the ad for Stu Hart's Dungeon on Stampede Wrestling TV, my parents' divorce, meeting Lance Storm, wrestling my first match, ranting about conspiracy theories and listing off my 1004 holds in WCW, eating brownies with Vince McMahon and signing with the WWF, being chewed out for my work with Chyna, capturing the Undisputed Championship from Triple H and receiving the biggest "pop" of my career... none of that mattered now.
What mattered the most was under the brightest lights all year long: WrestleMania. They say that WrestleMania is the Superbowl of wrestling, but that could not be further from the truth. The Superbowl is the WrestleMania of American football. Every road, every bump, every drop of sweat, blood and tears were all for this one moment to get to shine on the grandest stage of 'em all. On that fateful nights, the lights were brighter, the stages were bigger, the pyro was flashier, the fans were rowdier and you could break yourself or make yourself with one single, solitary performance at the Show of Shows.
This feud had been brewing since an edition of the Highlight Reel last year where HBK had superkicked me in the face. A few weeks later at the Royal Rumble, I eliminated him after my partner in crime, Christian, dressed up as me. I sneaked in, low blowed him from behind and proceeded to eliminate my childhood idol moments later. After, entrant 25, HBK, would return to the ring and get his vengeance like a classic babyface would, by being one of the main causes of my elimination. In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania XIX, we went from comparing Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels to Chris Jericho focusing on ending his former idol's career.
With all of these thoughts running through my mind, the countdown that was familiar to wrestling fans worldwide hit in Seattle, WA. After making my entrance to decent heat, HBK's music hit and the crowd went berserk as "The Fink" introduced one of my biggest inspirations in wrestling to the ring. Once he made the camera side of Safeca Field explode with pyrotechnics while striking his classic double-bicep pose, the bell rang and the "HBK" chants immediately began. Once Shawn played to the crowd like a true pro, we locked up and a dream match for many was officially underway.
After some chain wrestling to kick things off, and reaching stalemate for the fourth or fifth time in the match so far, the crowd gave us a respectful cheer and we locked up again. The first pinfall attempt of the match came courtesy of a side headlock takedown by HBK, forcing my shoulders down for a count of two. Seeing how Shawn was not going to let go, I rolled over into a pinning combination for another two count. Once I broke the hold with three elbows to the gut and one to the head, I proceeded to take HBK down with a textbook shoulder block. "I'm the king of the world!" I yelled to the fans in attendance, who made jeers rain down on me.
After a leapfrog/duck sequence, I stopped on my leapfrog and slapped Shawn right in the face. The crowd gasped and I got dropped with a big right hand from "The Showstopper." Once I was thrown outside the ring, I was able to evade a leaping body press before getting decked with a baseball slide dropkick. Shawn tossed me back into the ring, scaled the top rope and hit a crossbody which I rolled through, hooked the leg and got a two count. One mat slam later and I was in control of the match, going to town on Shawn with a big spinning heel kick and mounting punches to the skull. I began working on the lower back that had forced HBK out of action years earlier, but Shawn regained control of the match by shoving me off an attempted one handed bulldog into the second turnbuckle.
To the approval and "wooo!"s of the crowd, Shawn locked in a figure four leglock moments later. After seconds in the excruciating hold, I was able to turn over, reversing the pressure on HBK and making him unhook the submission. A shinbreaker later, Shawn went for the hold again, but I kicked out and sent him shoulder-first into the ring post. A loud thud rang over Safeca Field. In a spot that had happened minutes earlier, I tossed HBK over the top rope, but unlike me, he hung on, headscissored me to the outside, skinned the cat and then vaulted over the top rope to deck me with a big body press. After briefly brawling up the aisle, I caught Shawn off a dropkick and locked in the Walls of Jericho (a/k/a the Salad Shooter). Winning by countout was not enough; I slammed Shawn's lower back twice into the ring post and then tossed him into the hard padded floor.
After stopping Shawn's attempt to get back into the ring with a triangle dropkick, I was no longer the one being tossed into the ring, but instead, I was in total control of the match, working on HBK's surgically repaired back with a nice suplex. "I'm better than you! I'm better than you!" I screamed, and then delivered a vertical suplex for a two count. In order to wear my opponent out, I locked in a chinlock, all the while driving my right knee into his spine. With the crowd beginning to reel behind Shawn, he did the best he could to stand up and break the hold, but I stopped his futile attempt by raking the eyes. I got a hold of Shawn's arm and whipped him towards the rope, going for a back body drop, but Shawn was able to counter in the middle of the air and plant me head-first into the canvas with a big DDT.
Referee Charles Robinson began counting us both out, with me breaking the count at 8 and Shawn getting up moments later and fighting back with big right hands to the approval of the Seattle crowd. I was whipped off the ropes, but fired right back with a classic Shawn Michaels flying forearm smash and then the kip-up to a huge reaction. After posing a la HBK, I turned around to several big punches to the face, a flying forearm smash, an inverted atomic drop, a clothesline and a back body drop. Shawn went for a whip, but I countered into one of my own and charged full speed into the corner only to run into a big boot. As I attempted to recover, the man who had mistaken me for Doink the Clown and then gotten fired from WWE years earlier, went to the top rope and came crashing down with a moonsault press for a count of two. One roll-up sequence later and I was once again going for the Walls of Jericho, only for HBK to use whatever leg strength he had left in him to flip me over.
Waistlock by HBK, but I turned it into a waistlock of my own and then a northern lights suplex for a two count. Another pin attempt, but HBK again kicked out and then used his impressive strength to lift me up and attempt a backslide pin. Unable to get me over, the backslide attempt was broken and I decked Shawn with a huge clothesline to the chagrin of the rabid WrestleMania crowd. "HBK! HBK! HBK!" chants broke out, but they were silenced only seconds after they started with a big bulldog, courtesy of yours truly. After that, I put my own body on the line and hit a Lionsault, a move that I had first hit at Arena México against Negro Casas, but it was still not enough to put the legendary Shawn Michaels down. Another hook of the leg and HBK kicked out again. The frustration mounting within me, I chopped HBK in the chest and whipped him towards the rope. Shawn went for a hurricanrana, but I was able to keep him from flipping me over and instead cinched in the Walls of Jericho with a big smile on my face.
With the crowd chanting his name, Shawn used the last inch of strength he had and made it to the ropes, making me break the Walls. Once I dragged HBK back to the center of the ring, I got a hold of both of his legs and went to turn him over, but Shawn countered into an inside cradle for a nearfall. A kick to the gut and a butterfly backbreaker left HBK down again and gave me time to go to the top rope and plant an elbow right on my adversary's skull. Instead of going for the win, I went to the opposite corner of the ring, began "tuning up the band" and decked Shawn with Sweet Chin Music. Cover, 1... 2... and a kick out! Shawn had once again managed to kick out and the crowd was loving every second of him fighting back. Not being able to put Shawn away, I tried to work on his lower back again by whipping him towards the corner, but he jumped up on the second rope and came back down with a crossbody. Following a flurry of punches, Shawn grabbed both of my legs, but instead of stealing the Walls of Jericho, he launched me head first into the ring post and rolled me up into a ball for another count of two.
Shawn swung and missed with a wild punch, allowing me to punch him in the back and position him on the top rope for a back suplex that Shawn countered in mid-air with a big crossbody block. Shawn covered and got a two count. With Shawn preparing to drop an elbow from the top rope, I kicked Charles Robinson into the ropes, crotching Shawn. With a superplex in my mind, I climbed to the top rope, dropped Shawn's arm over my back and tried to lift him, but he hung on and dropped me face-first onto the mat with a big gourdbuster. Feeling the moment, Shawn looked at the record-setting 54,000 strong in Safeca Field and dropped a vintage elbow to the heart. The original began tuning up the band and went for his own Sweet Chin Music, but I ducked under the superkick at the last possible moment and again locked in the Walls of Jericho. But yet again, Shawn Michaels showed his heart and passion on the Grandest Stage of 'Em All and was able to make it to the bottom rope in order to break the hold.
"He tapped out!" I pleaded with Charles Robinson, but this only allowed for HBK to recover and nail Sweet Chin Music. Nearly unconscious from the impact of the kick, I was able to kick out of an attempted pinfall at 2 and a half to the shock of the crowd in attendance. Fatigue and pain filled my body, but I was able to counter an Irish whip and then nail Shawn with a stiff shot to the back. Like I had done minutes earlier, I went for a back suplex, but Shawn landed on his feet and used his legs to roll me up. 1... 2... 3! The crowd exploded, Shawn's music hit and on the biggest wrestling event of the year, Shawn Michaels had beaten Chris Jericho.
After a quick celebration from "The Main Event," Shawn turned over to me and extended his hand. With tears in my eyes, I refused to shake his hand and hugged him to a big pop from the crowd who knew that they had just witnessed magic. Instead of turning around and walking away to have a reborn living legend have his moment, in true villain fashion, I kicked Shawn right below the belt, pie faced him to the mat and walked away with my head held high. The crowd booed my departure, but they all knew that they had just lived through an instant classic. Shawn Michaels knew that he was officially back, but most importantly, I knew that I had just gotten my WrestleMania moment.
You can follow Brett Chandler on Twitter @BrettChandlerWE.
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