Favorite Matches #3: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

On the evening of April 5, 2009, Michael Hickenbottom and Mark Calaway didn’t put on just another excellent performance. They produced a classic match that a generation of wrestling enthusiasts look to as the capstone of their fandom. I knew Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25 was going to be something special considering the landscape of WWE at the time.

Taker and Michaels were already legendary performers who had the backstage clout to do whatever they wanted from a creative perspective. With both men being 44 years old at the time, however, some felt this match could never live up to their classic bouts with each other, twelve years earlier.

Oh, the wonders of ring psychology.

Their feud couldn’t have been simpler. Undertaker’s undefeated streak was the holy grail of accomplishment, and Michaels wanted his name etched in history as its conqueror. Michaels had to qualify for the opportunity by beating Vladimir Kozlov who also yearned for a shot at ending the streak.

Michaels was perturbed someone of his stature had to qualify for anything. He bragged about his own streak of never being pinned by The Deadman. This is true regarding televised bouts, which is all that matters in storytelling. In reality, Taker had pinned Michaels several times at house shows in late 97 through early 98.

 

Inspired by his religious faith, Michaels called himself the light that would eclipse the darkness embodied by “The Phenom.” To drive the point home, he even wore a white hat and trench coat in contrast to Undertaker’s distinguished black ensemble.

Sixty one thousand people inside Reliant Stadium were on the edge of their seat for the in-ring poetry exhibited by these two titans of the industry. However, that is not how it started. The first eight minutes of the match was slow and garnered next to no reaction from the crowd. A forgotten fact due to the bout’s high esteem.

I was watching WrestleMania at a friend’s house that year. Early on, no one in Brian Applegate’s living room was impressed with the match. My training as a wrestler, however, taught me that the best wrestling matches start slow and then builds to a crescendo followed by an epic climax.

Things began to pick up as both men exchanged a series of big moves followed by a dramatic escape where Michaels survived the Undertaker’s gogoplata submission. Michaels missed a top rope moonsault to the floor, which was shocking enough to witness, nevermind what followed.

Undertaker went for his signature dive over the top rope, but Michaels moved out of the way. Undertaker crashed into the cameraman, who was Sim Snuka (Jimmy Snuka’s son) working as a plant designated to catch him. Snuka missed timed the catch and Undertaker landed straight down on his head. Luckily, Undertaker miraculously avoided injury by tucking his head at the last possible second.

The tempo of the match heated up even more as both men kicked out of each other’s big moves. This type of work was surprising to see in a WWE setting as their timing and execution was on an entirely new level.

The closing moments of the match saw Michaels come off the top room with a moonsault, only for Undertaker to catch him in mid-air and drilled Michaels with a tombstone piledriver for the 1-2-3.

The adulation in Brian’s living room was at a fever pitch. None of us could believe what we had just witnessed. I looked at my phone and saw a Facebook post by WWE superstar Mike Kanellis, who was working for Ring of Honor at the time. He stated, “That match reminded me of why I love professional wrestling.” It’s a sentiment that thousands of wrestlers and fans echoed on social media as we all reveled in a state of grappling euphoria.

A wrestling match is not about doing big flashy moves. It’s about doing the right moves at the right time to tell a story. Shawn Michaels was the biggest threat to the Undertaker’s undefeated streak. The drama of it all was augmented by every well-chosen and well-timed move, sell and facial reaction. Everything they did in the ring meant something. This outing transformed the streak from famous to infamous because we genuinely didn’t know who was going to win.

 

My Favorite Matches

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Survivor Series 1996

Kurt Agle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003

Bret Hart vs. Undertaker – One Night Only 1997

Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage – WrestleMania 3

Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart – Summer Slam 1991 

British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart – Monday Night Raw 3/5/97

Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog – Simmer Slam 1992

 

WrestleMania 34 Predictions (audio)

WrestleMania 34 is this Sunday and my old crew got together and put together a podcast where we deliver our preview and predictions for the show. Frank Dee, Adam Kohn and I talk about all the matches, stories and rumors going into the biggest event of the year. Check it out!

WrestleMania 34 Begins to Take Shape

While there are still two more pay-per-view events to go, the card for this year’s WrestleMania is starting to take shape. Rumors and storylines on television lend credence to the matches that might transpire on Sunday, April 8 in New Orleans, LA. Let’s look at the scenarios that will officially occur on the grandest stage followed by those that are possible.

Continue reading “WrestleMania 34 Begins to Take Shape”

Dear Undertaker, Thank You.

When one discovers their passion for a certain genre, they eventually find that one individual or character that they admire and sometimes even live through vicariously. For me, that passion is fake fighting and the character is a dead wizard with supernatural powers.

I’ll never forget the Undertaker’s first appearance, which occurred at the 1990 Survivor Series in Hartford, CT. It would be the final time the event was held on Thanksgiving night as the demise of a tradition brought about the genesis of an indelible legacy.

This imposing figure was the mystery partner of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team. As a kid who cheered every good guy and booed every bad guy, I was impressed. A year later, Undertaker won his first WWE Title from Hulk Hogan. I didn’t bat an eye when this evildoer who represented death stole the championship from an American hero.

Two months later, Undertaker prevented Jake Roberts from blindsiding Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth with a steel chair. OMG, was the Undertaker now a good guy? No, No, No. It was a simple misunderstanding…right?

Continue reading “Dear Undertaker, Thank You.”

WrestleMania 33 Review: The End of a Legend

When it’s all said and done, the seven-hour spectacular that was WrestleMania 33 will go down as a newsworthy event that was better than it had any business being. Thirteen matches, a restroom break in the form of a Pitbull concert, one marriage proposal, the triumphant return of a popular duo, and the end of a legendary career encapsulates a roller-coaster of emotions for a show aptly named, the ultimate thrill ride.

WWE took over their home away from home this past weekend as Orlando, FL played host to the Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday along with an action packed NXT TakeOver card on Saturday. Then, the show of shows captivated a worldwide audience inside of the Camping World Stadium along with millions watching along on the WWE Network.

Kickoff Show:

Neville pinned Austin Aries to retain the Cruiserweight Championship:

Neville’s defense of the Cruiserweight title against Austin Aries was a well worked matched that was given an ample amount of time. Unfortunately, the crowd was still filing into the building, which made the match come off less than it was. Neville retained with the Red Arrow, which the Brit hasn’t used since turning heel. Fans had pegged Aries to go over, but Neville winning here will give Aries a chance to get over with the audience a little more while chasing the belt.

Mojo Rawley won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski sitting in the front row was a bright neon spoiler alert. Gronk’s friendship with MoJo Rawley has been mentioned over the past several weeks. Rawley was the first wrestler to declare his entry into the battle royal, so his win was a nice way to tie it all together. Plus, as a Pats fan, seeing Gronk hitting Jinder Mahal with a running tackle was a cool moment.

Surprisingly, Bruan Strowman didn’t do much in this match. Right now, he’s at the point where no one wants to see him lose. He was eliminated around the two-minute mark by ten wrestlers, which protected his character. NXT’s Killian Dain made it to the final three, which means WWE has plans for the big guy.

Dean Ambrose pinned Baron Corbin to retain the Intercontinental Championship:

When a fan-driven social media campaign got the SmackDown Women’s Title match promoted to the main card, no one expected the Intercontinental Championship match to take its place on the kickoff show. Many thought Corbin was going to win the title, but having him win it on the kickoff show won’t have the desired effect of making him stand out as a threat to be taken seriously. Smart money says Corbin wins it down the line. It was a TV match with nothing to complain about.

Now, let the main card commence.

Continue reading “WrestleMania 33 Review: The End of a Legend”

WrestleMania 33 Preview & Predictions Show

 

It’s the biggest day of the year in professional wrestling as WWE unleashes the ultimate thrill ride, WrestleMania 33. The show will emanate from the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL.

Atlee Greene and Adam Kohn breakdown all 13 matches on the card including the Universal Championship Match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. Also, Randy Orton challenges Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship.

The rumors are circulating that Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns could mark the last time the Deadman makes that walk down down the asile. If so, will Taker rule the day or fall to the Roman Empire?

Sit back, relax, press that play button and enjoy the show.

 

Report: Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns Scheduled to Close out WrestleMania

One thing that you got to love about WrestleMania weekend is the rumor mill regarding the event. Earlier in the week, the WWE Universal Championship between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar was expected to close out the show on Sunday.

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer is in Orlando for all of the festivities going on around town. According to the famed reporter, the probable match to close out WrestleMania will be Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns.

My first reaction is what about Randy Orton? You know, the winner of the Royal Rumble? Then I calmed down and remembered that the Rumble winner hasn’t really been guaranteed the main event spot for several years now. Besides, the Orton/Wyatt feud has cooled down considerably.

WWE is notorious for changing their plans at the drop of a hat, however, Taker vs. Reigns getting the nod means that confidence is low in Goldberg vs. Lesnar being anything special. Goldberg probably can’t go more than ten minutes, and doing a squash match in Lesnar’s favor to get his heat back, is not a suitable scenario for the main event of WrestleMania.  Continue reading “Report: Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns Scheduled to Close out WrestleMania”

Smackdown Women’s Title Match Back on WrestleMania Main Card

The card for WrestleMania 33 is always changing. Due to popular demand, WWE has shifted the SmackDown Women’s Championship match from the kickoff show to the main card. Alexa Bliss defends the title against Becky Lynch, Natalya, Mickie James, Naomi, and Carmella in a Six Pack Challenge.

Upset over the match’s placement on the show, fans started using the hashtag #GiveSDWomenAChance on social media to campaign for the change. The WrestleMania lineup on WWE.com no longer has the match listed on the kickoff show. Becky Lynch took to Twitter and confirmed the change.  Continue reading “Smackdown Women’s Title Match Back on WrestleMania Main Card”

Clarity, Ladders and Al Roker added to WrestleMania 33

It’s WrestleMania week and the go-home editions of Raw and SmackDown brought about some clarity to this Sunday’s ultimate thrill ride. Seth Rollins signed the contract making his non-sanctioned match with Triple H official.

I found it funny that a half hour after the match was made, a video package aired highlighting their feud. We all knew that Rollins was going to sign on the dotted line, however, can’t the production of the show at least pretend to be surprised? I guess that doesn’t really matter because wrestling-isn’t-real.

The triple threat match for the Raw Tag Team Titles got quite the upgrade in what will now be a ladder match. Reigning champs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson blindsided Ceasro and Sheamus and later did the same thing to Enzo and Cass.

Their weapon of choice? A ladder, which was completely random at first. Now, it makes perfect sense. This stipulation was a gift from the heavens for these six wrestlers because no one cared about this match beforehand. Now, it could steal the show.  Continue reading “Clarity, Ladders and Al Roker added to WrestleMania 33”

Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin is on for WrestleMania

The Intercontinental Championship has officially found its seat on The Ultimate Thrill Ride, WrestleMania 33. Dean Ambrose will defend the title against Baron Corbin as the match was made when Ambrose accepted Corbin’s challenge on SmackDown.

“The Lone Wolf” versus “The Lunatic Fringe” will mark the first WrestleMania singles match for the IC title since The Big Show pinned Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 28, five years ago. This is now the twelfth match added to the six-hour event.  Continue reading “Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin is on for WrestleMania”