From the church gong to fire shooting vertically on a stage to a few girls screaming and a silent prayer, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker put on a spectacle that will live on in infamy.
In Phoenix, Ariz., on the grandest stage of them all, both of these men put it all on the line and for one purpose; to defeat each other in front of 72,000 people at Wrestlemania 26. It was either 18-0, or 18-1, and one of those had a protagonist and antagonist.
Whichever was your preference, either way, every fan felt gladness and empathy.
Numerous times, this match is replayed on YouTube or any other outlet all around the world because the match told us a story, a story that had a clear beginning, middle and end.
Long-time fans would have enjoyed it, as well as someone whom never watched a single minute of professional wrestling. Every element was incorporated and utilized to perfection.
In this article, I will be recapping the match that was "The Streak vs. the Career."
I'll go in depth on what makes a great match, the background of Shawn Michaels, the legacy behind Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak, the match's impact of being at Wrestlemania and why it was the best wrestling match of all-time.
Please join me and let’s start off with...
What Truly Makes a Great Wrestling Match
An event such as professional wrestling is one of the most careful and strategic actions in any sport.
Is there such a thing as the perfect wrestling match? If that is the case, what logical and practical rationale would it take to even convince someone of such a case?
World Wrestling Entertainment, at one time or another, focused purely on the wrestling to keep bringing the fans back every single night. As for this Wrestlemania, the primary argument rests with the show-stealer of the pay-per-view.
That show-stealer is the sole reason why Wrestlemania is the grandest stage of them all.
What exactly factors into creating a great wrestling match?
2. Exemplary ring work
3. Match commentary
4. Crowd support
5. The ability to tell a story
6. Emotion and passion.
7. Putting your heart into each move.
Please tell me if I missed one, but all of those factors contribute to a great wrestling match.
Many examples give justice to each claim. Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man at Wrestlemania 3, this match I am writing about, Michaels vs. Taker at Wrestlemania 25 and Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a ladder match at Wrestlemania X are given choices of the best match.
All of those matches have each of the factors I listed and highlight the most important one: emotion and passion.
Wrestling is all about passion and the drive to steal the show. Given that Michaels is in most of my examples above, he and Taker could do that more than anyone at most times. They put the meaning back in professional wrestling and reminded all of us why we watch it every week.
So, what exactly is a great wrestling match? Could it be when each man acts as if each match is his last?
Well, let's look closer at two men which I feel did that more often than others...
Background of the Showstopper: Shawn Michaels
The Showstopper, the Main Event, Mr. Wrestlemania, the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels meant everything to Wrestlemania just like Wrestlemania meant everything to Shawn.
Michaels was an artist in that ring. Every skill needed to survive and succeed in professional wrestling; he excelled at and set the bar high each and every time he stood on that mat. That was his playground, and he loved playing on it.
It wasn't for the spotlight, but much more for the love of the sport. From his first match to his last match, Michaels wrestled it like it was his last. What was even scarier is a few times, it certainly could have been. Against the Undertaker, he made a match look like a dance. It didn't matter who you put in front of Michaels, he brought out the best in that opponent.
Wrestlemania brings out the best in every wrestler. Money in the Bank matches, Iron Man matches or even just a singles match could have stolen the show.
In most cases, Michaels is the forefront of that discussion.
He has won countless championships, participated in more memorable matches and captured the hearts of many at Wrestlemania alone. To be granted the name "Mr. Wrestlemania" speaks volumes for itself.
On numerous episodes of Raw, Smackdown or most pay-per-views, Michaels was the best. His matches with Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and countless others proved so and nobody could touch him. The sole thought of HBK performing at a higher level at Wrestlemania is a spectacle waiting to happen.
None could it better than Michaels because he knew that he could steal the show any given night. Only one person matched him in passion and dedication.
This man has been the key component to Wrestlemania and the man that has made strides almost incomparable to any pro wrestler in history...
Legacy of the Phenom: The Undertaker
A man with all the respect and legendary tales more than anyone in World Wrestling Entertainment, he has made Wrestlemania his playground and true legacy.
Perfection. Just the sole noun has a different connotation than any other when regarding professional sports. Teams strive for perfection as well as players. The Undertaker has captured the essence of perfection and made it the true existence of his character.
Wrestlemania and Undertaker bound themselves together since 1991, when he defeated Jimmy "Supafly" Snuka to become 1-0 at the Showcase of the Immortals.
The list continues as he went on to defeat these men in succession:
Jake Roberts, Giant Gonzalez (by DQ), King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Psycho Sid, Kane, Big Boss Man, Triple H, Ric Flair, Big Show and A-Train, Kane (second time), Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Shawn Michaels (this piece's match) and then Triple H last year at Wrestlemania 27.
An astounding 19-0 after 20 years of action. It is a streak that will never be broken, and for good reason. There has come a time when it was close to ending. Randy Orton almost defeated him, and so did HHH both times and HBK prior to that.
Whether the match is for the World Heavyweight Title or just to keep his streak alive, Undertaker brings his A-game and like Shawn Michaels, it is hard to even remotely touch.
The gimmick speaks for itself. He is the true Phenom, because he has proved it every day he steps in that squared circle.
There will come a time when Mark Callaway will not compete at Wrestlemania anymore, and all we will have left as fans are the memories. Rumors are that it will be against Triple H in a Streak vs. Career match with HBK refereeing the battle.
It will certainly be a showcase of the immortals...
Wrestlemania's Impact and Difference on Each Match
The age-old moniker rings true when we say that Wrestlemania is the grandest stage of them all. This is the place that each and every person that aspires to be a professional wrestler wants to reach.
Think of it like the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals, the World Series and the National Tournament in March Madness and the grand finale. In my opinion, Wrestlemania surpasses all of them with unpredictability and memorable moments.
Most of the matches in this contest took place at Wrestlemania. That proves how vital this show is to the whole industry.
Vince McMahon will forever be remembered for producing the event and deserves never-ending praise. He brought us certain bouts like HBK/Taker, each Money in the Bank match, Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio’s first major title, Steamboat vs. Macho Man and Hulk vs. Andre.
There are not words that can explain Wrestlemania. Maybe it is just the name in and of itself. Just like Beatlemania took storm over the U.S., this is when wrestling takes the world by storm broadcasting in over 20 countries worldwide.
Careers are lifted and ended. Like I already noted, Undertaker made Wrestlemania his backbone. Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, two of the best wrestlers ever, ended their career at such a place.
But on one day, in Phoenix, Arizona, two men graced that squared circle and did what each have done for over 20 years: produce the best professional wrestling match of all time.
Why This is the Best Match of All-Time
Wrestlers every single day try and put on the best match possible, moreover one-upping the previous match completed. Although, the phrase of a perfect match slowly creeps through the minds of many.
From beginning to end, the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels performed a ballad that lasted over 25 minutes. As a writer who still searches for art in professional wrestling, I look no further than their bout at Wrestlemania 26.
Considering the factors listed in a few slides prior, they exemplified all of them with an A+ next to the checklist.
After Shawn did his patented back flip off of the top rope and onto the announce table, the tone was set for the remainder of the contest. These men will die trying to defeat each other. Finisher after finisher and signature move after signature move, the suspense built.
As if you couldn't feel the end of the match looming, a near-fall occurs and disrupts all predictable outcomes come up with.
Coming from a fan of wrestling, I had faith Michaels would be victorious. The man they call the best to ever step foot in the ring, the Undertaker, was nearing his final match. I saw the ending going either way.
Until Callaway hit that fatal tombstone, I had hope for both parties involved.
With great respect for both men, the handshake above is as important of a photograph that you will see in this business. Two titans at war with each other concluded their battle with a sign of courtesy.
Here is the full match link.
A cast of blue light and a big 18-0 shown on the stage Jumbotron saw the end of an era. The best to perform in this industry finally was put in his place, and Undertaker was one step closer to 20-0 and a grand finale at the grandest stage of them all.
This is why I believe the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 26 is the best professional wrestling match of all time.
Thank you all for joining me on this joyous ride. It certainly was fun writing this piece and competing in one of the best competitions on Bleacher Report.
Also, it was an honor to even participate. I wish best of luck to each and every competitor, and hopefully, they all can write the best piece possible for a great voting portion.
Have a great day, everyone.