Throughout WWE history, there are instances in which one can look at a match and say, "That revolutionized the art form."
One such instance is the Ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania X in March 1994. At the time, it was unlike anything fans had ever witnessed before. Two men with the goal of leaving the historic Madison Square Garden with the prestigious title battered, bashed and bruised each other with a ladder.
The brutality and the story captivated fans and won the match universal acclaim.
Both Michaels and Ramon were made men coming out of the bout, Michaels more so thanks to the risks he took to ensure the quality of the match. The Superstars would remain pillars of WWE over the next year, with Ramon holding down the midcard while Michaels made the climb toward main event status.
By the time SummerSlam rolled around, the company was in the toilet creatively, with ridiculous gimmicks and asinine characters debuting on a weekly basis. In hopes of saving the biggest show of the summer and giving loyal fans at least one match they could appreciate, the decision was made to book Michaels and Ramon in another Intercontinental Championship Ladder match.
Again, the Superstars would prove their greatness as they thrilled fans in Pittsburgh with another phenomenal match.
But before we get there, let's take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the events that led us to the monumental bout.
While Ramon got the best of Michaels at WrestleMania X, The Heartbreak Kid would have his own success against The Bad Guy.
The summer months saw Michaels physically involve himself in a match between Ramon and HBK's bodyguard, Diesel. The 7-foot Superstar knocked off Ramon and became the intercontinental champion. Ramon would regain the title at SummerSlam, during which NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton kept Michaels at bay.
On the Oct. 30, 1994 episode of WWE Action Zone, Michaels and Diesel successfully retained the WWE Tag Team Championship against Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid in an outstanding tag match, one of the most underrated bouts in company history.
By summer 1995, both men were popular babyfaces. Michaels had defeated Jeff Jarrett to capture the Intercontinental Championship, while Ramon was regularly teaming with Kid and newcomer Savio Vega.
With no other match on the SummerSlam card, the Superstars were brought together with one goal in mind: steal the show and send fans home happy.
As you are about to see, they succeeded.
The match at SummerSlam 1995 is arguably superior to the much more acclaimed WrestleMania bout from a year earlier.
Michaels and Ramon were better workers by that time, and the psychology and storytelling of the SummerSlam match was much sounder than that of the 'Mania bout.
Ramon was more aggressive and worked the majority of the contest as a heel, targeting Michaels' knee. That still did not persuade the more hardcore members of the audience from cheering Ramon at the expense of the pretty boy.
Michaels demonstrated guts and toughness as he fought through considerable pain and ultimately emerged victorious, getting his win back over his real-life best friend.
While the WrestleMania X match involved the performers playing up the stipulation for an audience who had never seen a Ladder match, they were freer to tell their own story without the handcuffs here, and it worked.
Michaels was well on his way to the top of the card and his first WWE Championship.
At WrestleMania XII, he defeated Bret Hart in an Iron Man match to achieve his boyhood dream. From there, he would reign atop WWE for the better part of two years, creating a legacy for himself full of hissy fits, political backstabbing and a diva-like attitude that would make most celebrities blush.
Ramon, on the other hand, saw his WWE career wind down. He lost more than he won and worked midcard programs with the 1-2-3 Kid and Goldust, but he still remained one of the more over and popular stars on the roster.
His departure in 1996 laid the groundwork for the New World Order angle in Ted Turner's WCW that nearly put WWE and Vince McMahon out of business.