An eye for an eye is the best possible way you can describe the classic feud between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho in the summer of 2008.
It's organic evolution led to one of the best stories in not only the glorious history of World Wrestling Entertainment, but all of professional wrestling.
The focus of this article is on the absolute classic ladder match that the current and future Hall of Famer put on, but I do feel that I would be doing a disservice to my readers if I did not touch upon the entire feud.
It all began shortly after Shawn Michaels retired the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in another match that could be debated as the best of all-time.
Dave Batista confronted Michaels for retiring his friend, calling him egotistical and selfish.
Chris Jericho soon got involved and was named the special guest referee for their match at Backlash.
Michaels, previously saying he would do anything to win, fained a knee injury off a Batista Bomb so he could hit Sweet Chin Music out of no where to win the match.
Jericho was not to fooled though, as he knew the Heartbreak Kid wasn't really hurt; awarding him with an Oscar for a great acting job.
The next week Jericho and Michaels were an odd bed-fellows sort of tag team against the formidable duo of John Morrison and The Miz.
Jericho pinned Morrison as Shawn limped to the back, which convinced Jericho that he was indeed hurt. After Y2J even offered to call off the Judgement Day match, Shawn Michaels admitted that he was not really hurt.
To convince Jericho, he hit Sweet Chin Music.
The Judgement Day match was two faces almost acting as heels. You had Jerry Lawler claiming that their egos were so big they needed their own zip codes, with Jericho staring down the man who had lied to him.
We witnessed a very technical match that Jericho believed he had in-hand when he delayed Sweet Chin Music numerous times to get up and hit the Codebreaker.
However, Michaels locked in the crossface in what would signal the beginning of the end for Chris Jericho.
The competitors shared an uneasy handshake before the pay-per-view moved onto other things.
Michaels went on to finish off his feud with Batista in a Stretcher Match, where he lost. Meanwhile, Jericho would drop the Intercontinental Championship to free himself up for the events that would unfold in the months that followed.
Jericho invited Shawn Michaels to his Highlight Reel talk show to reignite problems that were temporarily set on the back burner.
Jericho began in classic babyface manner, even calling Shawn Michaels one of his idols growing up. When he welcomed out his guest, he slowly transformed into a dark and devious heel that he had never been.
Jericho asked why Michaels could do anything he wanted yet be cheered, while Jericho could not get away with the same. He asked why such an immortal in the wrestling business could be such a spineless, worm of a human being.
Not giving HBK time to respond, Jericho clotheslined Shawn bringing him down to his knees.
Jericho held the blond locks of Shawn Michaels, telling him the worst was yet to come.
Jericho sending the head of Shawn Michaels through his JeriTron 5000. As he had predicted, Jericho was booed all the way to the back.
At the Great American Bash, Jericho controlled the majority of the match, continually going after the detached retina and making it pour blood. Jim Ross has even speculated that HBK bled so much it forced the WWE to usher in the PG Era.
Is this true?
I suppose we will never know.
Jericho won the match by referee stoppage, putting Shawn Michaels on the shelf for the next month in the process.
At SummerSlam, due to a detached retina, Michaels and his wife were in the ring announcing his retirement.
Jericho, perhaps jealous of the attention, came out and began a war of words. Shawn Michaels claimed that Jericho would never reach the stature of HBK, provoking an elbow. This elbow was ducked by Michaels, but hit the jaw of his wife.
Soon Michaels would return, saying his wife would simply not allow him to retire after what happened at SummerSlam.
He pleaded Chris Jericho for another match at Unforgiven, which was only accepted under Unsanctioned rules. Meaning, neither the WWE or either competitor was responsible for their actions in the unofficial match.
Reversing roles in a way, Michaels won this match by referee stoppage.
Michaels looked himself to be in danger when Jericho and his lackey, Lance Cade, were working his arm. Michaels though, put Cade away with a Sweet Chin Music and pounded Jericho into a state of unconsciousness.
Michaels sat in the corner of the ring afterwards, wondering if he could ever forgive himself. More importantly, he wondered if God would one day forgive him.
Just when Jericho was thought to be down and out, he replaced CM Punk in Raw's World Championship Scramble match. He sneaked in and earned a pinfall in the few remaining seconds to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
Shawn Michaels then smooth talked Mike Adamle into a ladder match for the World's Heavyweight Championship at No Mercy.
What some failed to recognize is, Chris Jericho may have been the only WWE Superstar to have a more polished resume in a ladder than Michaels, even being the innovator of Money In The Bank.
This, my friends, was the best professional wrestling match ever.
I believe in the Walls of Jericho. I believe those walls are coming down. --Joshua 6:20
As the World Heavyweight Championship swung above their heads, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels looked each other dead in the eyes in a match we knew was likely the last of this great series.
They were not satisfied with winning the world title. No, they wanted to maim or seriously injure the guy standing across from them in the ring.
This personal rivalry was just about to culminate live from Portland, Oregon.
The bell sounded and the two locked up.
Michaels shifted from a headlock to behind-the-back armbar on Jericho, who countered with the exact same move.
Michaels fought out with a couple of elbows to the skull of Jericho, oh so ironic after Jericho's elbow to his wife's head a few months prior.
Michaels flew around the ring, knocking Jericho to the mat with a shoulder bump. An attempted Sweet Chin Music was just avoided by Chris.
HBK fought off Jericho after trying to go to the top rope, and instead channeled Ric Flair with chops in the corner to the chest of the best in the world.
Michaels threw Jericho to the other side of the ring, but the crafty veteran moved out of the way and HBK's shoulder hit the steel post.
Michaels stirred back to his opponent, being met with a swift kick to the gut then a punch to the head.
Jericho, circa his heel turn on the Highlight Reel, clotheslined Michaels. Except this time, Michaels went over the rope onto the apron.
When he realized that his clothesline didn't get the job done, Jericho nailed his signature Springboard Dropkick to send HBK flying to the outside.
Chris Jericho confidently toyed with Shawn Michaels. He bashed his head into the ring, following up with a slap and a "C'mon Michaels."
In desperation, Shawn climbed up a nearby ladder and leaped off for a crossbody onto Jericho. Still not satisfied, HBK pounded on his rival's head.
Michaels attempted to keep his momentum going by tossing Jericho's shoulder into the steel post. Jericho though reversed, leaving Michaels as the one cringing in pain.
Jericho folded a ladder only to be tripped up and have his head bounce off the ladder. This was just the time Shawn needed to recover.
As Michaels recovered, he grabbed a ladder of his own, yet was on the receiving end of a reversal by Jericho into the Walls of Jericho.
Jericho relinquished his hold and stomped the chest of HBK. He had a ladder within grasp, Michaels however used his veteran ring smarts and jumped on the other end of the ladder to blast Jericho in the chin.
Michaels tossed in the ladder and rolled himself back in the ring. He set the ladder up and started his climb to the top. Jericho, still in a slight daze, did just enough to remove his opponent from the rungs of the ladder.
Jericho eventually set up for another Walls of Jericho, but the athletic Michaels leaped onto the ladder. Jericho pushed the ladder over rather quickly, with Michaels neck slamming against the top ring rope.
Y2J again grabbed the ladder, using it as a battering ram to the flesh of the Hearbreak Kid. As HBK was on the canvas, Jericho added insult to injury by dropping the ladder on the lower back of Shawn Michaels.
With blood spurting from his mouth, Chris propped a ladder up in the corner.
The two kept this five star match for the World Heavyweight Championship going.
Scenes reminiscent of the entire feud they have had continuously popped up.
Jericho was the narcissist trying to end the career of a man he felt he was in the shadow of. Michaels was seeking even more revenge for what Chris Jericho had done to him and his family.
These two goliaths, yet Davids in size, hit finisher after finisher. Despite this, it was never enough to clinch the victory.
I believe this match represented everything pro wrestling should be.
You had a good versus evil matchup with fantastic buildup. The heel had a big ego, a lackey and the world champion at the time.
The face had an edge to him, but relied on God given talent to get wins.
You had the perfect mix of weapons used and pure wrestling to tell the best story possible, with two artists in the ring to paint the picture.
At match's end, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels played tug-of-war with the hanging belt. Michaels closed in to an inadvertent headbutt, causing him to fall from the ladder and the World Heavyweight Championship to drop in the hands of Jericho.
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