Five More of Shawn Michaels' Best Matches
Well over the years, Shawn Michaels has been in matches that we enjoyed and matches that made him a living legend. Here are some of them.
5. Wrestlemania 21: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
At the Royal Rumble, Angle relentlessly attacked Shawn Michaels after Michaels had eliminated him from the Royal Rumble match.
On Raw, after Michaels defeated in a Street Fight, Angle attacked Michaels and accepted his challenge.
Then we saw one of the best interpromotion match ever in Wrestlemania history; it was a back and forth match but in the end Kurt survived HBK.
4. Wrestlemania XIX: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Before he retired in 1998, Shawn Michaels had earned a reputation for turning in extraordinary performances at WrestleMania.
This match, however, was his first WrestleMania match since his comeback in 2002, and no one knew if Michaels' star would still be able to shine as brightly as it once did.
In addition, all of Michaels' previous memorable WrestleMania performances had come in championship matches near the top of the card, but this was a mid-card match with no title involved.
This match was going to be used by many to gauge Michaels' abilities as a full-time wrestler once again, and Michaels more than proved that he was back and as good as ever.
The match that Michaels and Jericho orchestrated was a textbook back-and-forth contest that should be required viewing for anyone studying the basics of how to structure a professional wrestling match.
The match may not have stolen the show (due mainly to the fact that neither Michaels nor Jericho managed to come off the top turnbuckle and land on his head), but it did silence any lingering doubts of Michaels' continued staying power.
3. Wrestlemania XX: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit
Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship Match
There's very little I can say about this match that hasn't already been said. It's been called the greatest triple threat match of all time. That's impressive.
It's been called the greatest main event in WrestleMania history. That's almost unfathomable. Hell, just last week Julian listed it as Triple H's best match ever.
The moment that everyone remembers is Triple H tapping out to Chris Benoit, but it's unfair to neglect Shawn Michaels' contributions to the overall quality of the match.
Triple H vs. Chris Benoit would have been a great match, but it was Shawn Michaels that provided the intangible "it" factor that transformed the match from great to legendary.
Whether he was moonsaulting off the top rope or challenging his old adversary Triple H to finally finish the score, it was Michaels' performance as the prototypical tweener that allowed him to effectively play off of both Chris Benoit and Triple H.
I'm not sure if you can have a truly great triple threat match with two faces and a heel or with two heels and a face, but in this case you had one great face, one great heel, and one great tweener come together and give us the match that PWI would recognize at its 2004 Match of the Year.
2. In Your House: Badd Blood: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Hell in a Cell Match
In all honesty, I have to admit I'm amazed that this match worked as superbly as it did. The gimmick itself (a giant cage with a roof on top) sounded a bit goofy and could have led to a thoroughly forgettable match had it not been placed in the capable hands of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
Instead, we were treated to an alarmingly intense spectacle that once again raised the bar on brutality in WWE. It was in this match the Michaels forever perfected the role of chicken shit heel that still serves as the template for arrogant yet cowardly heels everywhere.
Oh, and speaking of "Holy Shit!" moments, I damn near forgot to keep breathing when I realized that Michaels and Taker were going to actually climb to the top of the cage.
Most "Holy Shit!" moments involve one or more bodies crashing down onto or through someone or something, but this particular moment of disbelief came simply from the face that two legends were literally taking this match to previously unprecedented.
Of course, a more traditional, gravity assisted "Holy Shit!" moment came mere moments later when Michaels rather unceremoniously ended the career of an announce table, but by that point it was simply icing on the cake.
A camera man got his ass kicked, a Big Red Monster tore the door off the cage, and in the end we had yet another one of only four matches in WWE history to earn a five-star rating from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
And for the No. 1 Match...
1. WrestleMania XII: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship
This match marked a fundamental change in the focus of the industry. Big men had ruled the industry for years, especially in WWE, and it would have been ludicrous to book such beasts in a one-hour contest.
In fact, the idea of putting two guys that would have traditionally been viewed as too small to be champions in a one-hour match to headline the biggest show of the year must have seemed rather ludicrous itself at the time, but it also changed the future of the industry.
This match was one of the major factors in legitimizing smaller champions. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero would have never embraced in both as champions, at the conclusion of WrestleMania XX if Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart had not gone at it for an hour (and then some) eight years earlier.
In addition, the match itself is a masterpiece of pacing and storytelling.
It would have been incredibly easy for Michaels and Hart to go full throttle from the start and then run out of material half way through the match, but instead they worked one of the smartest matches I've ever seen and in the process crafted the match that PWI named its 1996 Match of the Year.
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