< PART 1 < PART 2 < PART 3 < PART 4
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles California
Date: April 3rd, 2005
The Winning Match: Shawn Michaels v Kurt Angle – 18 votes
I wasn’t surprised that this match came out on top, but I was incredibly surprised at the lack of votes for Batista’s climb to the top of the mountain. Kurt Angle, outside the ring problems aside, is rightly considered one of the best wrestlers of all time. Shawn Michaels, as you may have seen mentioned once or twice, is the self-proclaimed Mr. WrestleMania. Put those two together and the ingredients are primed for an epic encounter.
On the “Road to WrestleMania,” Kurt Angle had violently attacked HBK at the Royal Rumble after Shawn eliminated him from the match. From there, the challenge was made; HBK v The Olympic Hero at the biggest stage in wrestling – WrestleMania. Angle, to get into the head of his opponent, faced Marty Jannetty on Smackdown (after the former Rockers had reunited, for one night only, on the previous RAW) in an absolutely stunning match that actually got Jannetty rehired… only for him to be released a few months later due to legal issues. This also gave us one of the best parodies in wrestling as Kurt Angle, with Sensational Sherri, came out dressed as HBK and sang his own take on the theme song, “Sexy Kurt.”
Although overrated, the match itself is still a fantastic bout between two excellent workers. The action is fast paced throughout, with counters and exchanges flowing perfectly. The only low-point is the length of time Michaels stays in the match-winning grapevined Ankle Lock before submitting. Even so, the match is another great example of why, in my opinion, the idea of WWE being the land where only giants are successful is misguided and a fallacy. Sure, big guys will always have a place in WWE, but that can be said for any promotion. Look at the list so far; only WrestleMania VI has a winning match that features two massive men competing against each other. Some of the other matches have a “big man” as one of the participants, but the majority of the matches featured here are between two wrestlers who fall outside the remit of what constitutes a big-man wrestler.
2nd Place: Money in the Bank Ladder Match – 5 votes
3rd Place: The Undertaker v Randy Orton – 3 votes
Location: Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
Date: April 2nd, 2006
The Winning Match: Hardcore Match – Mick Foley v Edge (w/ Lita) – 12 votes
As we near the end of our countdown, we come to another narrow victory in our polls. Edge v Mick Foley is, to me, the swansong to what we have come to acknowledge as hardcore wrestling. Of course, there still are hardcore matches, but this was, to me, the last chapter in the book. Mick Foley has long been an advocate of Edge in real life, stating in numerous interviews that he sees Edge as the best pro-wrestler working today. The catalyst for their match was Foley’s desire to have “that one WrestleMania moment” that had eluded him throughout his career. The former Mankind felt that his performance at the previous year’s event (a losing effort alongside The Rock against Orton, Flair and Batista of Evolution) was below-par and he wanted to make amends. Edge, on the other hand, blamed Mick for costing him the WWE Championship against John Cena (Foley was the referee when Cena caught Edge, mid-crossbody, and hit the FU for the win). The Rated-R Superstar, livid that his dream of main-eventing ‘Mania as the champion had been taken away, challenged Foley to a match at the event instead. Mick, in a surprising move, declined the offer of a wrestling match and, unsurprisingly, challenged the man who called him out to a hardcore match. One con-chair-to later, Edge accepted.
The pre-hype videos focused on who Foley had become in comparison to who he had been. Edge mocked Mick and said he used to be someone to instigate fear, but now, he was nothing more than a pathetic cuddly teddy bear. Foley, in response to that, agrees that he had become exactly what Edge had described… but when he was smashed in the head with a chair, Edge had awoken something that had been dormant too long; the Hardcore Legend was back and ready to do some damage.
Come match time, Joey Styles joined Jerry Lawler (who he’d been doing RAW with) and Jim Ross (who he’d been brought in to replace) to call the action. Edge enters first, in street clothes (which really does add to the Street Fight/Hardcore aura of these types of match) and looks like he knows this is his chance to elevate himself to the main-event window and stay there. Mick Foley, showing a dedication sadly lacking today, managed to get himself into stunning shape, at least for him, and was ready to give the performance of his life.
Many people who compete in these matches forget all about the psychology of the why and the when. In this match, every weapon shot meant something, every action and reaction was with a purpose and Lita, on the outside, plays her role as perfect as you could hope her to. For close to 15mins, Edge and Foley brutalise each other as the Chicago crowd scream their lungs out. But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared any of us for the unbelievable finale. A table set up at ringside, Foley on the apron and Lita cracking the flannel shirt-wearer in the nuts. One dose of lighter fluid later and said table is aflame directly behind Foley. Edge charges across the ring and, in a moment of madness, spears his opponent between the ropes and drives both men through the flaming table to the floor. Edge may have won the match, but Foley got what he came for, his WrestleMania moment.
2nd Place: WWE Championship – Triple H v John Cena – 10 votes
3rd Place: No Holds Barred Match – Vince McMahon v Shawn Michaels – 3 votes
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
Date: April 1st, 2007
The Winning Match: World Heavyweight Championship Match – The Undertaker v Batista – 12 votes
I went on a little diatribe earlier about the “WWE is a big man’s world only” mentality earlier and, to advocate my point, this is the 23rd match out of a list of 25 and only the second to have two big men squaring off; a measly 8% of the entire countdown. Batista had a reputation as being a lazy worker, but he had also been built up enough that the Undertaker’s streak would be in serious jeopardy. No-one gave this a chance of outshining HBK v Cena later in the card, but both Undertaker and “The Animal” were upset that they didn’t get to close the show, so vowed that if they couldn’t end the show, they would steal it instead.
Undertaker had won the Royal Rumble (considered the best Rumble match since 1992 and, without question, consisting of the greatest “final two” segment of any Royal Rumble in history) and, with it, the chance to challenge either Bobby Lashley, John Cena or Batista for either the ECW, WWE or World Championship respectively. On an episode of RAW, ‘Taker chose Batista and chokeslammed him to the mat. Following this, HBK (who was the runner-up in the Rumble) was given the shot against John Cena at WrestleMania. From there, the two main-events teamed up and faced each other at No Way Out (The RAW team won after Batista turned on Undertaker and on the last RAW before the PPV (the Smackdown team were victorious after Michaels finally turned on Cena).
With the “Road to WrestleMania” travelled, the World Heavyweight Title Match between Undertaker and Batista was meant to be an appetiser for the true main event between Shawn Michaels and John Cena… only problem was, no-one told ‘Taker and ‘Tista. The two big men tore the house down with a brawl that shattered announce tables, crunched bones and had near-fall after near-fall until Undertaker managed to land the match-winning Tombstone and keep the streak alive. This match was a miracle considering how apathetic Batista had been in the past, but with his working boots on, the man is worthy of his position; a fact shown by the quality of the rematches over the following months.
2nd Place: WWE Championship Match – Shawn Michaels v John Cena – 10 votes
3rd Place: Money in the Bank Ladder Match – 7 votes
Location: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
Date: March 30th, 2008
The Winning Match: Career Threatening Match – Ric Flair v Shawn Michaels – 22 votes
And so, we come to the penultimate stop on our trip down WrestleMania Lane. Ric Flair was in an angle where Vince McMahon had decreed that it Flair lost another singles match, he would have to retire on the spot. This storyline ran for a while as Slick Ric notched up victories over MVP, Kennedy and Mr. McMahon himself (in a memorable Street Fight that saw a bloody Flair SPLASH VINCE THROUGH A TABLE!), but everyone knew that the end had to come eventually and, fittingly, it was against Mr. WrestleMania at WrestleMania. Going into the event, the word of the hour was respect; HBK respected Ric Flair and the feeling was mutual. Flair actually demanded Shawn Michaels be his opponent, but Shawn didn’t want the responsibility of retiring the legend and declined. Not willing to let it go and seeing the idea of Shawn automatically winning as a slap in the face, Ric called out Shawn and they unleashed the infamous and astounding “Old Yeller” promo that signalled his intent not to retire on the grandest stage. Of course, we all knew he was going to lose, it was more a case of how he would lose and with how much dignity it would carry. Flair being inducted into the Hall of Fame the previous night set the tone that this weekend would be all about Ric Flair and what he means to the wrestling business.
Vince, to his eternal credit, pushed the boat out big style for Flair’s entrance into the Citrus Bowl. The robe was astounding, the music sounded louder and more profound, the “WOOOOOOOO” chants resonated with more meaning and the atmosphere wasn’t one of regret, but one of celebration. For one night only, Flair turned the clock back twenty years and put on the performance of a lifetime, while Michaels lived up to his billing as Mr. WrestleMania (I may have mentioned that nickname once or twice). The fans were emotionally invested from start to finish, and even though the result was never in doubt, there were moments where we believed the impossible could happen. Of course, Flair did lose (and whoever came up with the “I’m sorry, I love you” segment deserves to be canonised), but that didn’t matter one iota. The fans got to see “The Man” go out on a high, go out on the biggest stage the sport has to offer in front of almost 75,000 people inside the stadium and millions across the world and the fans, more importantly, got to say goodbye to their idol the right way.
Michaels deserves credit for simply leaving the ring after saying something to Flair immediately following the three-count and letting Ric soak in the adoration and adulation from the capacity crowd and his family in the front row. I welled up watching it and, incredibly, WWE topped themselves the next night with Ric Flair’s emotional send-off that closed RAW. No-one has had a better goodbye than Ric Flair, not Austin, not The Rock, not Hogan, no-one had been given the chance to call it a day with more dignity and respect and no-one, in my opinion, deserved it more.
2nd Place: World Heavyweight Championship – Edge v The Undertaker – 15 votes
3rd Place: Tie – Floyd Mayweather/Big Show & MitB Ladder Match – 3 votes
Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
Date: April 5th, 2009
The Winning Match: Shawn Michaels v Undertaker – 23 votes
The result, in all fairness, was never going to be in any doubt., prompting some people to ask why I even included it in the voting at all, indicating a vote for the runner-up spots would have been more beneficial. Now, while that may be true, none of the other events (some of them also containing foregone conclusions) had the same courtesy and, in the interest of fairness, the size of the landslide was important to keep continuity throughout the feature.
OK, moving on to the match itself, we all knew going in that the bout was going to be good. Undertaker has shone in most of his last six or so ‘Manias, with great matches (from WMX-Seven on) against Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista and Edge. His outing at WMXIX sucked, but not because of him, the second match against Kane was a glorified squash that did its job and, to the surprise of many, the Casket Match against Mark Henry wasn’t poor.
Shawn Michaels, similarly, had been on a roll since returning in 2002. His first WrestleMania since returning saw him have a stellar outing against Chris Jericho, at WMXX, he competed in one of the most memorable Triple Threats (and, at Backlash the following month, repeated the feat) and at WrestleMania 21, Michaels faced Kurt Angle in an astounding wrestling match that, while not the greatest match ever as some people claim, is still up there with the best. The next year, he had a fun, weapon-filled brawl against Vince McMahon, at WrestleMania 23, pulled John Cena to a stunning WWE Championship co-main event and, at WrestleMania XXIV, HBK was victorious in one of the most emotional matches ever held at the event when he retired Ric Flair.
So, as you can see, going into WrestleMania XXV, both men were on somewhat of a hot streak and both men were damn sure that hot streak wasn’t going to come to an end. A stunning build leading up to the event had the fans salivating and that momentum was kept up during the entrances as, coming from the heavens dressed in white, Michaels semi-mocked Undertaker with his attire. As a contract, ‘Taker came from the “depths of hell” dressed all in black. It was a simple set up, but put across the opposite aspects of the two characters nicely.
Once the bell rang, the fans inside the Reliant Stadium were on their feet as both men just went at it. Counters, submissions, escapes and Undertaker almost killing himself on a misjudged leap over the top rope to the floor (in all seriousness, it looked bad enough to end the match there and then) kept them there.
Signature moves were hit to huge reactions and then it happened; SWEET CHIN MUSIC!! The Streak was over… only Undertaker hadn’t read HBK’s script and kicked out. A Tombstone followed and the result, to the shock of everyone, was the same. A second SCM had me on the edge of my seat and when that didn’t work and Michaels went to the top for a moonsault, only for Undertaker to catch him, even the edge of the seat wasn’t required. One more Tombstone Piledriver and The Streak went up to 17-0.
What a match… and the best part? We get to do it all again in a few days time. Undertaker v Michaels II at WrestleMania XXVI has had an even better build than the last one, with the video packages being out of this world. I have high hopes for a repeat performance, but not for a different result.
2nd Place: Tie – Matt Hardy/Jeff Hardy; JBL/Rey Mysterio; Jericho/Legends – 1 vote
3rd Place: N/A
Just some interesting numbers to come from the poll, which was comprised of…
- 33 different wrestlers.
- Only two of them (Edge & Hogan) make appearances for both tag and singles matches.
- 18 men who have held the WWE Championship or World Championship.
- 20 men who have held the WWE Intercontinental Championship
- 27 men who have held the WWE/World Tag Team Championships
- 2 Triple Threat Matches – one with three single wrestlers and one with three teams.
- 2 tag-team matches.
- 21 singles matches.
As for the THIRTY-THREE different men who graced the #1 spot over the last twenty-five years, some of them only did it once, others managed more than that, but no-one on the list could match the achievements of “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Living up to his nickname of Mr. WrestleMania, HBK notched up an incredible nine appearances in the countdown. The rest of the men, in order of most to least appearances, are as follows (in the event of a tie, they will be listed alphabetically).
- Shawn Michaels – 9 appearances
- Steve Austin – 4
- Bret Hart – 4
- Hulk Hogan – 4
- Randy Savage – 4
- The Rock – 3
- Edge – 2
- Roddy Piper – 2
- Ultimate Warrior – 2
- Undertaker – 2
- Kurt Angle – 1
- Batista – 1
- British Bulldog – 1
- Brutus Beefcake – 1
- Chris Benoit – 1
- Christian – 1
- Ted DiBiase – 1
- Diesel – 1
- Bubba Dudley – 1
- D-Von Dudley – 1
- Dynamite Kid – 1
- Ric Flair – 1
- Mick Foley – 1
- Jeff Hardy – 1
- Matt Hardy – 1
- Owen Hart – 1
- Chris Jericho – 1
- Paul Orndorff – 1
- Ricky Steamboat – 1
- Mr. T – 1
- Tatanka – 1
- Triple H – 1
- Greg Valentine – 1
Enjoy WrestleMania 26…
“The Hangman” Draven Cage