When a plethora of talented writers come together once again to discuss the greatest match in professional wrestling history, the one thing that must remain constant is the significance of the match and its impact on the business.
Yes, the performance of the individuals is important as any other aspect, but I feel as if this aspect alone should not decide the greatest match of all time.
For a match to fit the GOAT mold, there’s five dimensions the match itself must fit.
The buildup, storytelling, wrestling, emotion, audience, and how the match started and ended are those five dimensions. As I searched for a match that possessed those five dimensions, I watched a number of wrestling documentaries such as the recently released Bret/Shawn Michaels DVD. For a split second, a clip of Bret Hart spitting in the face of Shawn Michaels played.
This occurrence eventually led to me choosing the match I feel is the greatest of all time.
WWF Badd Blood 1997, Hell in a Cell, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
These two names are synonymous with any wrestling fan and each, in their own right, a legendary performer.
But their rivalry did not start simply out of competitiveness or mutual respect. Before these two performers wrestled two of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, their paths crossed at the conclusion of a WWF Championship match at SummerSlam 1997.
As Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were embroiled in a heated rivalry, The Undertaker was haunted by Paul Bearers warning of his little brother's (Kane) conquest for revenge.
The two stories collided when Undertaker accepted Bret Hart’s challenge for a match at Summerslam 1997. The Excellence of Execution was stacked against incredible odds, as Shawn Michaels deliberately inserted himself into the match to officiate.
At the conclusion, Bret Hart spit in HBK’s face, which caused Michaels to swing a chair in retaliation, only to strike the Undertaker as a result.
Michaels was forced to count the pinfall, practically handing his bitter rival the WWF Championship on a silver platter.
As HBK’s infamous arrogance and lack of regret became apparent, The Undertaker’s lack of compassion reared its ugly head. If Undertaker wasn't already angered by Shawn’s actions at Summerslam, the Showstopper assaulted Undertaker with the instrument that lit this rivalry on fire—a chair.
A match at Ground Zero: In Your House ended in a no contest due to interference by Triple H and Undertaker's unrelenting wrath on Shawn and the referees.
Due to Triple H and Chyna’s involvement, a steel cage bout between the two was set to end the climactic program. However, a new steel cage concept was concocted to cover the entire ring to limit the beaucoups of outside interference.
It was named, "Hell in a Cell," and it was obviously devised for Undertaker to unleash his wrath upon Shawn Michaels.
While this match isn't the most technically sound of its time, the story it told is probably one of the best I've ever seen. Initially, the Undertaker methodically pummeled Shawn Michaels to oblivion as the Showstopper struggled to mount any offense against the Demon from Death Valley.
Simply put, the earlier portion consisted of Taker slowly and violently dissecting HBK, while Shawn displayed a high abundance of resiliency. As the match progressed, HBK was able to mount small offense here and there.
At this point, I could feel the storytelling as HBK slowly battled his way back. Michaels wasn't able to control the pace like the majority of his other matches. With the crowd emotionally invested, Michaels utilized his environment to pick the Undertaker apart.
Michaels once again introduced the instrument that caused this program, a steel chair, and then struck the Undertaker over the back.
Michaels displayed a profound amount of frustration and emotion by cursing a camera man. Despite hitting Undertaker with everything in his arsenal, Michaels was hurled into a camera as he charged at Taker.
This was clever on the WWE’s part as Michaels assaulted the referee, which led to officials removing the locks so the cameraman could be tended to by medics.
This allowed Shawn Michaels to escape the cell after the SCM wasn’t able to keep the Undertaker on his back.
Undertaker continued to brutalize Shawn, lacerating the Showstopper after driving his head into the cell on occasion. However, Michaels was able to fight Taker off and used the time to flee the Deadman by climbing up the cell.
This is when things got interesting. This was the first time the WWF displayed the ECW like spots, with Michaels falling through a table after trying to flee the Deadman once again. The Undertaker’s vicious streak is on full display, as he continues picking HBK apart before returning to the Cell. After a devastating chokeslam from the top rope, Undertaker introduces his own chair.
Wielding a chair strangely resembling the one HBK used at Summerslam, Taker struck HBK in the head with the object as Vince McMahon uttered poetic justice on commentary.
The crowd is on their feet as Undertaker signals for the tombstone. All of a sudden, the lights go out and Kane makes his highly anticipated WWF debut. After ripping the door of its hinges, Kane stares the Undertaker down before distracting him with his signature turnbuckle trick.
Kane gives his brother a devastating tombstone piledriver before exiting the Cell. Shawn Michaels slowly crawls towards Taker and lays his arm across the Deadman. The referee slowly counts the pinfall, and Shawn Michaels has survived hell.
Like I stated above, this match had unbelievable storytelling. It was The Undertaker methodically dissecting Shawn Michaels as a result of his arrogance and lack of remorse.
On the other hand, Michaels fought for his life while displaying a profound amount of resiliency and arrogance, despite being destroyed for the better part of the match.
It had the emotion, the storytelling, the build, audience involvement, explosive start, and indecisive/shocking conclusion.
Besides the five dimensions, this match was special, as it didn't revolve around one storyline. This match easily contained three different storylines. Obviously, the first being the program with Shawn Michaels and Undertaker, but it also featured the continuation of the Taker/Kane angle.
While it wasn't as heated as it was during this, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were still embroiled in an infamous rivalry.
This match also decided who would face Bret Hart at Survivor Series for the WWF Championship. In case you don’t know, the Montreal Screwjob occurred at that event.
As I mentioned above, Triple H and Chyna were heavily involved in this feud. This was when the Degeneration-X stable started to materialize.
This was also Vince McMahon’s last match as a commentator. McMahon would go on to become one of the most despised on-screen characters after the Screwjob at Survivor Series.
Obviously, this was the inaugural Hell in a Cell match and also marked the first appearance of the Kane character on WWE programming.
In many ways, this match catalyzed the Attitude Era.
In the end, I still firmly believe this match is the greatest of all time because it possessed every important dimension when it comes to naming the GOAT.
If you agree, disagree, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment.
Here’s the entire match